A tap-in from Lekhanya Lekhanya was enough to see Lioli secure the much-needed three points against Matlama in a tense Vodacom Premier League match played at Setsoto Stadium yesterday.
The win saw Lioli extend their lead at the top of the 14-team league table by three points over second-placed Matlama with both sides left with two matches before the season comes to a close.
Lioli will host Rovers and Linare, while Matlama face LCS and Linare in the two giants’ last matches of the season.
Both teams came into yesterday’s match level on points but Lioli had a superior goal tally hence they were top of the table.
However, true to expectations, yesterday’s match was a cracker although it started on a cautious note as both sides were wary of conceding a goal early in the contest.
The battle was really in the middle of the park where Matlama’s Kefuoe Mahula was having a personal fight against Tšoanelo Koetle of Lioli.
It took the match half an hour for the two teams to make a dangerous attempt at goal when Lioli’s Jerry Kamela’s set-piece hit the upright with the crowd already on its feet celebrating.
The match went to the halftime break still goalless and the second half also started equally cagey but soon exploded into the showpiece fans had come to enjoy.
Matlama were punished for Makhetha Thakeli’s poor goalkeeping when Lekhanya tapped in a parry from Bushy Moletsane’s shot.
Five minutes later, Nkoto Masoabi headed home Lekhanya cross from the right but was unlucky to see his goal ruled offside.
To add more numbers going forward, Matlama substituted Tankiso Makhutla who had a dull game, and replaced him with Mpho Matsinyane in the 80th minute before Jane Thabantšo made way for Tumelo Maine at the same time.
The substitutions, however, did not make much of a difference as the due struggled for possession.
Masoabe came close again in the 83rd minute after receiving a pin-point pass from Lekhanya inside penalty area but his free header went straight at the goalkeeper.
Five minutes before time, Lioli suffered a blow when veteran midfielder Bushy Moletsane pulled a muscle and was replaced by Teboho Lekhooa, while striker Junior Maba came off the bench for Masoabi on the stroke of full time.
In a post-match interview, Lioli coach Mosholu Mokhothu was a happy man, saying they needed the three points to enhance their chances of defending the league title.
“The race is not yet over; we must take every match as it comes but I am happy for the maximum points we took today because we are now three points clear of them (Matlama),” Mokhothu said.
“It wasn’t a tough match at all but I must give credit to my boys because they played the way we planned.”
Matlama coach, Moses Maliehe, was left shattered after the match but said there were still two more matches to play.
“I think my boys played well. We just conceded that soft goal and that was just it But the fight is not yet over because there are two more matches left for us to play so we are still in the race for the league title,” Maliehe said.
In other league matches played yesterday, Linare registered they first win of the second leg when they beat Likila United 2-0 in Butha-Buthe while Mphatlalatsane lost 2-1 against Sundawana in Maputsoe.
In the other match, Liphakoe got the better of LCS with a 2-1 win at LCS Ground.