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Matlama edge Stars in thriller


IMG_1633…but the SA premiership side get the better of Bantu

Moorosi Tsiane

Phafa Tšosane struck the solitary goal as Matlama beat Free State Stars 1-0 in a friendly match played at Seeiso Leshoboro Stadium in Mafeteng yesterday.

The Maseru-based premier league giants made their point clear from the word go but striker Mohau Khali squandered an early goal-scoring opportunity as he ballooned the ball over the cross bar eight minutes into the pulsating match.

Tse Putsoa looked more comfortable on the ball than their South African opponents, with the midfield trio of Kefuoe Mahula, Tankiso Makhutla and Tšosane reigning supreme.

Makhutla was denied a goal by defender Themba Shabalala, who cleared the ball from the goal-line after the midfielder had intercepted Johnny Mathole’s back-pass in the 12th minute.

However, Stars did not sit back after the early scare and in the 20th minute, striker Andrea Felicia had a free-header inside the six-yard box, which however, did not trouble Matlama goalkeeper Thabiso Lichaba.

Stars were then caught on the counter seconds later, with Tšosane making no mistake and putting the ball behind goalkeeper Diakite Dauoda.

Despite the Bethlehem outfit fighting back to try and level matters, Matlama hung on and went to the halftime break still leading 1-0.

After the break, Stars came back the hungrier side and striker Makhaula Makhehleni was unlucky to see his well-taken shot from long-range sail over the cross bar in the 62nd minute.

Ea lla Koto, as Stars are affectionately known, then went all out for the elusive goal but the Matlama backline stood firm.

In fact, it was Matlama midfielder Jane Thabantšo who came close to extending the lead for his side but Dauoda produced a man-of-the-match save to deny him what would have been the icing on the cake for Tse Putsoa.

In a post-match interview, new Matlama coach, Moses Maliehe, said he had been impressed by his team but also pointed at a number of shortcomings he said needed to be looked at.

“We played good football and I am happy we won the match. However, I am not satisfied with my players’ decision-making in the last third of the pitch. We will be going back to the drawing board and work on this before the season starts next month,” said Maliehe.

On his part, Free State Stars coach Kinnah Phiri hailed Matlama for their solid performance and said the contest was “a good practice match for us before the season starts next month.”

Phiri, however, bemoaned the extremely cold weather and bumpy surface of the stadium.

“It was really cold and the ground was also very bumpy so we couldn’t really play the way we wanted but I am happy for my boys,” said Phiri.

Meanwhile, in the first match of the day, Free State Stars beat hosts Bantu 2-1.

In matches to be played today also at Seeiso Leshoboro Stadium, premiership newcomers Liphakoe kick-start the double header against Free State Stars at midday, while premier league heavyweights Bantu also face the South Africans, who brought a large squad for the two-day tournament, later in the day.

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