MASERU — Matlama will be crowned Vodacom Premier League champions if they beat Mphatlalatsane this afternoon.
Their nearest rivals, Lioli, gave up the chase yesterday after crashing 1-0 to Likhopo at the Central Prison.
Lioli fans, after watching their team’s dream to retain the title go up in smoke, immediately tried to attack referee Mohau Sentšo and his two assistants when the final whistle was blown.
The fans were agitated when the referee turned away appeals for a penalty by Lioli players towards the end of the match.
Lioli officials quickly intervened to restrain the fans.
The unruly behaviour of the fans is certain to bring more sanctions for the beleaguered Teyateyaneng side.
Lioli’s loss yesterday means Matlama can take an unassailable lead and wrap up the championship if they beat Mphatlalatsane this afternoon.
Matlama go into today’s match on 61 points, while Lioli can only amass 63 points if they win their remaining four fixtures.
After today’s match Matlama will remain with three games.
Yesterday Lady Luck appeared to have frowned on Lioli who went to the break trailing to Mokone Marabe’s early strike.
In the second half, despite wave after wave of attacks, Lioli were unable to get the goal they were desperate for.
In the 49th minute Kananelo Makhooane did brilliantly to save Seenyane Nthejane’s flicked header.
Five minutes later Ntobo smacked the post with a long-range drive and in the 86th minute Nyakhane Nyakhane headed Lehlohonolo Mpopo’s shot off the line to sum up the day for the defending champions.
As Lioli desperately tried to save the game — and probably the title — they were dealt a blow when Brown Makobe was red-carded for a crude tackle on Marabe in the 71st minute.
But the main talking point after the match remained the penalty appeal which could have changed the course of the game.
The referee waved away appeals for what appeared to be a clear penalty for handball in the 80th minute.
Lioli players mobbed Sentšo in protest, with their supporters briefly invading the field of play.
At that stage, trailing 1-0, a goal could have saved Tse Nala’s season.
As tempers flared, Lekhotso Morapeli was lucky not to be the second Lioli player to be sent off after a reckless lunge on Selborne Lekhooa in the 82nd minute.
“If Lioli deserve to lose then let them lose fairly,” Lioli assistant coach Halemakale Mahlaha told the Sunday Express after the match.
“We spent a lot of time and money during the week only for us to be provoked in this way and then (when things like this are done to us) people are going to say Lioli always fight.
“Look at the tackle on Soai (Masola). He is torn where he is right now, but the referee just didn’t take any action.”
Lioli have hogged the limelight this season for all the wrong reasons.
If it wasn’t about their fans’ unruly behaviour, it was about their officials allegedly bringing the game of football into disrepute.
“The people of Teyateyaneng have to learn to lose,” Likhopo coach Motlatsi Shale said after the game.
Likhopo 1-0 Lioli, LMPS 8-2 Botha-Bothe Roses, Rovers 3-2 Swallows, LDF 3-2 Linare