THE 2018/19 Econet Premier League season has roared into life and before this weekend, all the 14 teams had played four matches each.
I will not dwell much on how all the teams have fared so far but my focus is on the bottom placed Likhopo who, before today’s round of matches were still winless having lost to Liphakoe, Linare, Matlama and LCS.
Likhopo survived relegation by the skin of their teeth last season after they rescued themselves in a promotional play offs featuring Lithabaneng Golden and Ketane.
The Red Army won the mini league of those three teams to survive the chop and get the chance to taste the elite football once again.
The woes of the outfit owned by the late Bishop Molatoli started two seasons ago when the Matekane Group of Companies did not renew their multimillion maluti sponsorship deal. Eventually Likhopo lost key players who went out to look for greener pastures.
It has always proved to be difficult for the so-called small teams in domestic leagues around the world to fight against the big guns. The best small teams can do is to play according to their strengths when they clash on the field of play.
But the Halemakale Mahlaha coached outfit has done things differently by trying to match their opponents’ strengths pound for pound and unfortunately that hasn’t worked for them.
While football supporters will always go to the stadium to watch entertaining football, I think it is also important for the coaches to avoid losing matches unnecessarily all in the name of playing good football.
Heavyweights such as Manchester United coach Jose Mourinho have won several matches and even accolades while employing boring tactics like ‘parking the bus for instance’.
I have watched Likhopo under Mahlaha and I must concede they look like a good side but Mahlaha still has lot to do as their backline often gets exposed and concede goals.
His side is dominated by young players with no experience and there is no doubt that losing all these four matches consecutively has dented their confidence.
Likhopo has conceded 12 goals in their last four matches and that speaks volumes about their defence.
The second round of the league has always proved to be tough as teams will now be fighting for respectable positions at the end of the season to ensure that they qualify for the top four or top eight while others will be evading relegation.
For a team to either clinch the league or survive the axe, it needs to collect as many points as it can in the first round and Likhopo must be careful that they don’t lose out.
To collect the necessary points and survive, the Red Army has to play according to their strengths and avoid conceding in every match. It would be wiser to draw while being cautious than to lose while attempting to play beyond their means. In the meantime, Mahlaha has to try to boost their confidence and maybe sign some experienced players in the January window period.
The other important aspect that needs serious attention from the coach is his charges discipline at the back.
Likhopo have played four matches but already on two red cards. They also conceded from the two spot kicks against LCS on Thursday.
Mahlaha needs to instill discipline on his charges and ensure that they stop committing silly mistakes that at the end of the day cost them matches.