MASERU — Linare will top the Vodacom Premier League at the end of the year, no matter what, after second-placed Bantu were shocked 3-0 by an efficient LMPS side at Old Europa yesterday.
It was another inspired big-stage performance by Simunye who inflicted A Matšo Makaota’s first league defeat of the season thanks to their customary no-frills approach and well-taken goals from Mphonyane Ramathalea, Retselisitsoe Mabitle and Lebohang Rasenthuntsa.
The result means Bantu remain on 17 points, one behind Linare, while LMPS jump into fourth place on 14 points.
Yesterday’s outcome also demonstrated how unpredictable this premiership is turning out to be, and it will take a brave man to predict which side will be Lesotho’s kings of football next May.
Nonetheless Bantu, who had previously won five from seven games, have to blame themselves as they failed to match the intensity of their hosts.
The Mafeteng side were also outwitted.
“We matched them in terms of passing but we had a problem when it came to defending,” Bantu mentor Tšehla Lerotholi said afterwards.
“We didn’t back-track quickly enough to defend when we lost the ball.”
It is those spaces in which a cunning LMPS side capitalised on — much like they usually do against their daily bread Lioli.
“Bantu, we know, are now a team that has quite a number of ball players who like to stroke the ball around,” Simunye coach Lelia Makubekube said in his post-match analysis.
“I don’t see a difference between them and Lioli.”
“We know that when they are playing with the ball they will forget about defending the space behind, and that is what we planned to capitalise on,” he added.
Bantu were also not helped by going down to an early goal, which is never a good idea against LMPS.
Just 17 minutes into the game they were behind after a defensive mix-up allowed Ramathalea to coolly slot past a sprawling Daniel Jousse in Bantu’s goals.
From then on the pattern for the match was set.
LMPS, with their rearguard and wise schemer Bota Ramantsoe, would sit back, wait and hit Bantu on the break with their direct approach and the pace of striker Matšora and wide-men Teboho Ramakau and Mabitle.
Bantu for their part struggled, on a bumpy pitch, to forge any consistent rhythm with their talismanic playmakers Tefo Maipato and Mosiuoa Boseka yesterday failing to tick.
The situation did not improve in the second half.
In fact, it got worse.
In the 68th minute, with no danger in sight, Jousse’s poor clearance bounced kindly to the head of Matšora who did well to beat the scrambling keeper.
Twelve minutes later it was game, set and match when another swift Simunye counter-raid led to substitute Rasenthuntsa scoring from a rebound to make it 3-0.
Bantu huffed and puffed, but never looked like blowing LMPS’s defensive wall down.
“I give my players praise; they played with discipline and according to instructions,” Makubekube said.
“We still have a chance (to win the league), right now we have 14 points, that is just three behind Bantu — and this is our first big win this season.”
But Bantu are not throwing in the towel as yet.
“We have to go back to the drawing board and fix a few things,” Bantu coach Lerotholi said.
“(The title race) is still wide open . . . this was only our first loss of the season.”
But as it is, leaders Linare will have the chance to extend their lead at the top when they host Maduma this afternoon.
LDF for their part will have the chance to grab second spot if they beat Mphatlalatsane at Ratjomose in the last premiership action of 2010.