Vodacom Premier League returns to action 



MASERU – The 2023/24 Vodacom Premier League season will finally return to action this weekend after unanticipated long Christmas break.  The top-flight league was initially set to return to action on January 6 but it was postponed to January 14 due to Likuena’s preparation for the 2026 Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) World Cup Qualifiers against the Africa Cup of Nations bound Os Mambas of Mozambique and South Africa’s Bafana Bafana last Saturday and on Wednesday this week, respectively.

Likuena lost 2-0 to Os Mambas through an own goal and a penalty before playing to a goalless draw against Bafana Bafana. Both games took place in South Africa.

The Vodacom Premier League returns with Super Sunday fixtures including a tie between the log-leaders Lioli and the seventh-placed Lijabatho at Lioli Ground.

In another interesting New Year fixture, the second-placed Matlama will host the 15th-placed Naughty Boys at Bambatha Sports Arena.

Both Lioli and Matlama are out to collect maximum points in order to intensify their chances of winning the league title, come end of the season.  Matlama are only one point adrift of Lioli on top of the log table while Lioli are leading with 33 points, with Matlama having amassed 32 points, both from 13 matches.

Lioli, who are yet to lose, face a wounded Lijabatho team who have not won in their last two matches of the league. Lijabatho lost their last league match 2-0 to the 10th-placed Liphakoe on December 20, after playing to a goalless draw with LU FC on December 17.  

The Morija based-side last tasted victory when they beat the fifth-placed Linare 3-0 home on December 9. This was after Lijabatho lost 2-0 to Matlama on December 6 and drew 1-1 with the 12th-placed ACE Maseru on December 2.  

In fact, Lijabatho registered a single victory in their last matches in which they drew twice and lost twice. On the other hand, Naughty Boys are one of the most struggling teams in the league having failed to register a victory in their last five league matches.

They were held to a 1-1 draw by ACE Maseru in their last encounter on December 21, after a four-match losing streak against the eighth-placed LDF FC (2-0), LCS FC (2-0), Lioli (3-0) and Bantu (7-0), all in December, respectively.     

Back to the Matlama-Lioli league race, unlike the latter, Matlama lost one matchagainst the third-placed Bantu (2-0) away from home on December 17.

A loss to Bantu came a week after Matlama were held to a goalless draw by the Premier League rookies LU FC on December 10.  But Tse Putsoa won their last match against the 14th-placed Manonyane (2-1) on December 17 to keep their title hopes alive.  Before a draw against LU FC and a loss to Bantu, Matlama collected maximum points back-to-back against Machokha (2-1) and Lijabatho (2-0) respectively.

The log-leaders Lioli also found the going tougher. Tse Nala could not collect maximum points from all their last five matches.  They were held to a goalless draw and 1-1 draw by Linare and the fourth-placed LMPS FC in their last two matches, respectively. The two draws kept Lioli in the league race after beating the relegation threatened CCX FC 2-0, Naughty Boys 3-0 and Bantu 3-1, respectively.   

What is interesting about the Matlama-Lioli league title race is that the two teams are yet to meet since the beginning of the season in October last year.  Their first clash of the season was supposed to be last Sunday, had it not been because of the postponement of the fixtures due Likuena’s FIFA World Cup Qualifiers preparations. 

But it is still a game and set for both teams as their explosive tie has been rescheduled to next weekend to wrap up the 2023/24 Vodacom Premier League first round.

Full weekend fixtures at a glance

LDF FC vs Machokha (Ratjomose Ground)

Matlama vs Naughty Boys (Bambatha)

Linare vs LMPS FC (DiFA Maputsoe Stadium)

LCS FC vs ACE Maseru (LCS Ground)

Lioli vs Lijabatho (Lioli Ground)

CCX FC vs Lifofane (LAC Ground)

LU FC vs Manonyane (Ratjomose Ground)

Liphakoe vs Bantu (LCS Ground)

 All these games take place on Sunday. 

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