Matlama, Bantu renew rivalry

NTHAKO MAJORO

MASERU – Setsoto Stadium will be turned into a battlefield when giants, defending chamipions Matlama FC and Bantu FC, clash in the Vodacom Premier League (VPL) tomorrow. Matlama go to this important match after they parted ways with their league-winning coach, Molebatsi Mothobi, following a 1-nil loss to Lijabatho last Saturday.Mothobi was attacked by a Matlama’s fan after the Lijabatho match, which is reportedly the main reason he cut ties with ‘The Mighty Blues’ with immediate effect the following day, fearing for his life.Former Matlama legends, Halemakale Mahlaha and Mosito Matela have been appointed the team’s head coach and assistant coach respectively.

Lijabatho’s defeat was Matlama’ second loss in a row after another 1-nil loss to the LCS FC a week before.As if that was not enough, Matlama started dropping points when were held to a goalless draw by Lifofane before the two losses.Matlama last tasted victory when they beat VPL rookies, Naughty Boys, 6-0 in the beginning of this month.The defending champions had just defeated Lioli 1-nil three days before they hammered Naughty Boys.

In fact, before the Lifofane draw, Matlama were unstoppable, winning their opening four league matches in a row, including the Naughty Boys and Lioli defeats.That saw Matlama sitting on pole position on the 16-team Vodacom Premier League log table, looking set to defend their league title.But that has now changed since Matlama went through rough patch.

“They were not that bad when I first arrived at the team’s training session on Monday,” said Matlama’s new head coach Halemakale Mahlaha in an interview with Public Eye yesterday.“Yes, they looked quite down spirited in the beginning but that changed in no time.”Mahlaha said the recovery was seen on Tuesday as each and every player started to be committed and full focused on the job at hand.

“We started intensifying our training sessions on Tuesday, training in the morning and afternoon, and everyone began to be committed,” said Mahlaha.Given the magnitude of their upcoming match, Mahlaha admitted the pressure immense for them to win, following back-to-back losses.“Yes, the pressure is on us as coaches because this is a biggest game in the country.”

Mahlaha further said: “But fortunately for us is that big games like this one are already a motivation to the players and so it may be that I have arrived at the right time when every player is looking forward to prove themselves.”‘Tse Putsoa’ are now lying on fourth position from seven league matches, while their opponents, Bantu, are the ones currently sitting on pole position.Apart from the current log standing, Bantu go to the weekend match after beating Premeir League rookies, Galaxy, 3-0 last Sunday.

Bantu have so far lost once from seven league matches since the beginning of the season.The former league champions lost 1-nil to the same Lijabatho team who beat Matlama last weekend. Former Bantu goalkeepers’ coach, Tšepo Mathetha, said Bantu were better than Matlama in terms of play, but said they were not good upfront.

“Bantu will do well against Matlama, but my only worry is that they don’t have good strikers,” said Mathetha.He further said: “I mean since Lazola (Tjokojokwana) left to join Matlama, Bantu had never have consistency upfront.”Mathetha, on the other hand, said the Matlama team was unpredictable.He blamed the fatigue to a lot of their players.

“Matlama are on and off, and looking at their team you will realise that they are hit by fatigue, most of them.“I saw them last weekend when they played against Lijabatho.”The latter, Mathetha said were playing better than Matlama on the day, apart from the fact that they beat them.Mathetha therefore said Bantu were likely to emerge the winners at tomorrow’s game.“If Bantu can plan well, they will definitely win the Saturday’s game,” Mathetha said.

 

Vodacom Premier League weekend fixtures at a glance

 

Saturday, October 29, 2022

CCX FC vs  Swallows (LAC Ground)

Machokha vs Linare (Nyakosoba)

Lijabatho vs LDF FC (Morija)

Liphakoe vs Lioli (LCS Ground)

 

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Matlama vs Bantu (Setsoto Stadium)

LMPS vs Naughty Boys (Ratjomose Ground)

LCS vs Galaxy (LCS Ground)

Manonyane vs Lifofane (Nyakosoba)

 

Kick-off for all the matches is 3:00pm, both on Saturday and Sunday.

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