MASERU — It’s all square going into the second leg of this mammoth Vodacom Soccer Spectacular quarterfinal after Likhopo and Bantu played to a goalless but entertaining first leg at Central Prison yesterday.
In a see-saw affair contested by two determined teams there were chances to win the game, but rival coaches Motlatsi Shale and Tšehla Lerotholi will be content to go to Mafeteng in two weeks’ time having suffered scratches but no fatal injuries on the road to the M360 000 jackpot.
With both sides going into the game undefeated this season and boasting talents such as Tsebang Lebata and Tefo Maipato fireworks were expected.
Likhopo and Bantu didn’t disappoint.
Whereas at times such encounters turn out to be tense and cautious this was an all act assault for goals and if it wasn’t for two inspired goalkeepers, Kananelo Makhooane and Daniel Jousse, the score would have been different.
It wasn’t long before the afternoon’s first chance and in the 18th minute Bantu should have taken the lead when defender Lebohang Khoete scooped the ball over the bar from just two metres out.
The opening had come after Makhooane found Tlali Maile’s free-kick too hot to handle only for Motseki to balloon over after the keeper saved another rebound attempt by Teboho Nthako.
Likhopo, desperate to make use of home advantage, tried to answer back and Thapelo Tale whizzed a rasping shot past the post seven minutes later.
But with mercurial playmaker Maipato beginning to pull the strings, it was Bantu who were growing stronger and in the 34th minute “Chico” shot just over the bar before almost threading hard-running Mpho Matsinyane through.
However in a game of ebb and flow it was Likhopo who ended the half brightest, forcing Bantu captain Maile to almost score an own goal when he hit the crossbar with a looping header in the 38th minute.
And on the stroke of halftime Tale struck the post with a well-taken free-kick.
The second half saw more of the same.
As the sun got warmer, so did the action.
Bantu, who began the half on top again, had a loud appeal for a penalty in the 51st minute turned down.
To stem the flow of black-and-gold raiders Likhopo then introduced livewire Tšeliso Sejake in the 52nd minute.
His skill on the flank almost immediately led to an opening goal for Thabiso Mohapi, but his shot was spectacularly saved by a flying Jousse.
A minute later Tale fluffed a chance after Sejake had neatly chested the ball down for him in the penalty box.
But back came A Matšo Matebele again and after Nthako was fouled, Maipato’s goal-bound free-kick in the 63rd minute was acrobatically saved by Makhooane.
The final golden opportunity in a game of close shaves came in the 67th minute when Sejake beat Jousse but the ball struck the post before it was scrambled away with Likhopo’s bench and fans ready to celebrate a goal.
There were plenty of near-misses in the final 20 minutes as both teams pressed for an elusive first-leg advantage, but it never came.
Bantu will be pleased to go back to their passionate Mafeteng base on level terms, but having not conceded a goal at home Likhopo will know an away goal could throw the cat among the pigeons.
There is still all to play for in the second leg as Likhopo and Bantu try to plot the route to the richest bounty in Lesotho sports.
Vodacom Soccer Spectacular results
Likhopo 0-0 Bantu
Mokhotlong LMPS 0-2 Matlama