MAFETENG – Ten-man Bantu produced the performance of the season yesterday in Mafeteng to beat title-chasing Linare 1-0 and reignite their own championship charge.
Bantu are now just two points behind second-placed Linare and three behind leaders LDF, with games in hand on both teams.
A Matšo Matebele’s victory was forged by a second-half performance, in front of the Minister of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation ‘Mathabiso Lepono, that was nothing short of outstanding as the hosts pressured, battled and entertained in equal measure – topping it all off with a wonder goal by an inspired Tefo Maipato.
It was no wonder the Bantu nation was singing and dancing at the end of the game.
“If we play like this every week we will beat a lot of teams,” an ecstatic Bantu coach Tšehla Lerotholi said afterwards.
“There is nothing better than when you win as a result of what you agreed on with the players.”
After a timid first half whose only talking point was the dismissal of Bantu defender Likano Teele after a 50-50 challenge in the 28th minute, the match exploded into life in the second half as Bantu looked to give their special guest something to cheer.
“Whichever team that wins is my team, I have no team, I am here to support both teams,” Lepono joked at halftime.
Perhaps stunned by this Bantu came with vigour. Within four minutes of the restart playmaker Mosiuoa Boseka had already fired two warning shots at Linare’s goal.
And despite Leboneng Moqecho’s sneaky long range volley in the 52nd minute it would be Bantu who would utterly dominate proceedings.
Captain Mangana Maoela and Maipato governed the midfield while Tlali Maile, flanked by Lioli rejects Mohapi Ntobo and Brown Makobe, ate up anything that came their way in defence.
With this solid base established Bantu swarmed forward like bees.
In the 57th minute burly striker Mpho Matsinyane did well to wriggle into a shooting position only to hit the side netting.
Three minutes later Bantu then had deafening penalty appeals waved away after Boseka’s silky skills enticed a clumsy challenge in the penalty box.
By this point the Makoanyane XI starlet was bossing the left-hand flank and he could have opened the scoring in the 63rd minute only to have his shot well-saved by a busy Phoka Matete.
But it was clear; the 10 men of Bantu were running the game, much to the bemusement of Tse Tala’s sizable travelling support.
Their stars, from Moses Ramafole to Mabuti Potloane, were simply not functioning.
“I don’t know what happened to my players,” a dumbfounded Linare coach Pitso Mosothoane said after the game.
“Something was not right with my team. It wasn’t our day.”
Still, despite their dominance, Bantu were struggling to find the breakthrough – Maipato’s free-kick scraping the crossbar in the 67th minute.
And with the score still tied at 0-0 and with their side down to ten men the home fans were duly becoming restless.
Coming into the game Linare were unbeaten away from home while Bantu were coming from two crushing defeats, 1-0 to Matlama and 3-0 to LMPS, in their previous outings.
But just when it seemed as though it would be another day of frustration for Bantu up stepped man-of-the-moment Maipato in the 70th minute to score arguably one of the goals of the season and give A Matšo Matebele all three points.
“We are back,” Bantu mentor Lerotholi beamed afterwards. “It’s still wide open.”