MASERU — Matlama face Lioli in the Derby of Lesotho at Pitso Ground this afternoon as the Vodacom Premier League’s first round comes to an end.
Lioli come into the clash top of the league and a win in their rivals’ backyard would see Tse Nala move three points clear of the chasing pack. The high-profile tie is the country’s only Vodacom Premiership fixture of the day.
The Sunday Express looks at the key battles in this blood-and-thunder clash.
Thabo Masualle versus Dlomo Monapathi
This is a battle between the country’s best defender and top striker. Lioli’s player-of-the-season and arguably Lesotho’s player of 2009, Thabo Masualle has been imperious for Lioli over the past 12 months. This season, he has marshalled the best defence in the league, with Lioli conceding just five goals. Indeed, despite being celebrated for their attacking prowess, the champions have only let in 19 goals in their last 44 matches.
However, Masualle will have his hands full when he tackles Dlomo Monapathi, the man-mountain striker who is rejuvenated since rejoining Matlama on loan from Orlando Pirates in October. His hold-up play and silky touch have been crucial to Tse Putsoa’s season and if Monapathi fires today, all three points could stay in Sea Point.
Litšepe Marabe versus Mohapi Ntobo
Matlama’s Litšepe Marabe was nurtured at the champions’ feeder side, Hunters. The young left-winger enjoyed a breakthrough 2009 and Marabe has already scored 11 goals in all competitions this season.
In direct opposition to him this afternoon is one of Lioli’s main attacking outlets in right-back Mohapi Ntobo.
With Lioli’s right-midfielder Malebanye Ramoabi frequently cutting inside, Ntobo loves to overlap, giving Lioli extra numbers in attack.
However, this can leave Lioli exposed and vulnerable to counter-attacks — as exploited by Likhopo in their Vodacom Soccer Spectacular victory over Tse Nala.
Needless to say, the winner of the battle between Lesotho’s strongest left-flank — Matlama’s Thapelo Mokhehle and Marabe — and strongest right-side — Lioli’s Ntobo and Ramoabi — could decide the outcome of today’s encounter.
The Midfield Battle
Both Matlama and Lioli pride themselves on their traditional preference for playing attractive football.
However, pretty patterns may be a rare sight this afternoon because, simply, the midfield area will be congested. Matlama are expected to start with their three-pronged midfield of Lehlohonolo Mokhele, Lebakeng Lebetsa and Pali Tšalong against Lioli ’s Thabile Seeker and Motlalepula Mofolo. But with Lioli’s Malebanye Ramoabi and forward Lekhotla Pitso preferring to drift into central areas, the battle for midfield domination will be ferocious.
But for Lioli, more so than Matlama, possession is the heart to their play, with coach Mosholi Mokhothu preferring to slowly suck the life out of opponents through keeping the ball. If Matlama allow Lioli time to dance, then Teyateyaneng will be smiling come five o’clock this afternoon.
Matlama (4-3-3): Liteboho Mokhesi – Tšoanelo Koetle, Sello Seholoholo (captain), Nkau Lerotholi, Thapelo Mokhehle – Lehlohonolo Mokhele, Lebakeng Lebetsa, Pali Tšalong – Hlomelang Theko, Litšepe Marabe, Dlomo Monapathi
Coach: Ntebele Taole
Lioli (4-4-1-1): Pompo Shoai – Mohapi Ntobo, Thabo Masualle (captain), Brown Makobe, Lereko Matsipa – Malebanye Ramoabi, Thabile Seeker, Motlalepula Mofolo, Lehlohonolo Mpopo – Lekhotla Pitso – Seenyane Nthejane
Coach: Mosholi Mokhothu
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