MASERU — Lioli will remain kings of Lesotho for at least another week after beating Matlama 2-0 in the Battle of Lesotho yesterday to stop Tse Putsoa from claiming the Vodacom Premier League title.
Goals in either half from Sello ‘Muso and Seenyane Nthejane were enough to spoil Matlama’s party.
Matlama just needed a point to claim a record ninth championship.
Instead Lioli are now breathing down Tse Putsoa’s necks, five points behind with two games to play after victory in the country’s biggest match in many moons.
While exaggeration is risky, certainly the occasion — involving Lesotho’s grandest teams — was something that has not been seen in a long time, with the colour and sound of the near-capacity crowd not only bringing life to Bambatha’s quiet setting but hope the country’s football may be on the up.
Sadly, however, the game also highlighted the problems that haunt the country’s football.
In the second half the match descended into a farce as Matlama fans continuously encroached on the field, stopping play.
In one of the many delays, Matlama players even had to plead with their supporters to stay a distance from the touchline.
Police had to be called in to bring a semblance of calm in order to allow the match to continue.
Nevertheless waking up this morning Lioli fans won’t care after they snapped their rivals’ 19-match unbeaten run in the league and giving themselves a faint hope of retaining the title.
The worries today will all be in Maseru after Matlama faltered once more.
Throughout yesterday’s game Tse Putsoa seemed unsure and out of sorts.
Dlomo Monapathi, who had been suffering from flu, was a shadow of his usual self.
The side’s other big guns also failed to fire, with Litšepe Marabe, Pali Tšalong and Lehlohonolo Mokhele all part of a limp display littered with mistakes.
Indeed it was the normally dependable Mokhele who was to blame for Lioli’s first goal after he dilly-dallied with the ball in the 28th minute.
After his attempted clearance was charged down, the ball fell to an alert ‘Muso who rounded Liteboho Mokhesi to make it 1-0.
Matlama did have their moments — they had a strong penalty appeal in the 36th minute waved away by referee Rethusitsoe Lebaka after Mohau Khali seemed to have been brought down.
Yet overall they never had the urgency and precision the occasion demanded.
It perhaps wasn’t a surprise that Lioli’s second goal, four minutes after halftime, was also because of Matlama’s mistakes.
After a midfield duel for possession right-back Tšoanelo Koetle lagged behind his fellow defenders, playing everyone onside as Malebanye Ramoabi lifted a pass in behind the defence.
Mokhesi then rushed out to clear but he was beaten to the ball by Teboho Lekhooa who laid the ball onto Nthejane to find an empty net.
From then, as the match became a stop-start affair, Lioli looked like they were the clear winners, even despite a late Matlama spurt which saw Tse Putsoa besiege Tse Nala’s goal.
And now as the title race enters its climax Matlama coach Ntebele Taole will be worried by his side’s inability to break down defences.
This season Tse Putsoa have not won a game coming from behind.
They also endured frustrating 0-0 draws with Mphatlalatsane, Joy, Botha-Bothe Roses and Nyenye Rovers — teams they should have surely beaten.
Today’s Premier League fixture:
Likhopo vs Lerotholi (Central Prison)