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Matlama ready to write history

Teboho Molapo

MASERU – Matlama captain Nkau Lerotholi says they are confident of overturning a two-goal deficit when they square off against SuperSport at Setsoto Stadium this afternoon.

Lerotholi told the Sunday Express that the team is ready to create history this afternoon when the two clash in the Caf Champions League return leg.

No Lesotho team has ever ventured past the preliminary round of Africa’s top club competition since it was rebranded in 1997.

Victory over SuperSport would be the country’s first over South African opposition in the tournament.

It is against this background that Matlama welcome the struggling South African champions to Setsoto Stadium seeking to overturn the huge 2-0 deficit.

The last time a Lesotho club participated in the Champions League it lost 5-0 on aggregate to another South African side Platinum Stars in 2008.

The club with that unenviable history is LCS.

However, there is a great expectation that Matlama can spring a surprise this afternoon in front of what is expected to be a sizeable and boisterous crowd at Lesotho’s home of football.

Tse Putsoa put up a brave fight in the first leg at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane a fortnight ago succumbing to two second half lapses.

Speaking to the Sunday Express on Friday, Lerotholi insisted a win for Maseru’s Glamour Boys was not far-fetched.

“We are not afraid of SuperSport and we are ready. Maybe ahead of the first match there was some nervousness because they have well-known players, but they are just like players from here at home; there is nothing amazing about them,” Lerotholi said.

Lerotholi, who has been a rock in Matlama’s defence over the past two years, added they had learnt lessons from the first encounter.

“We saw how they play in the first leg; their plan is to pass the ball to the flanks and cross it. They are tall and it’s not easy to defend but we have

been working on how to stop them,” the Likuena international said.

Matlama coach Mahao Matete has played his cards close to his chest in the build-up and it is unclear which side “Bomba” will select for today’s match, nevertheless Lerotholi’s centre-back partnership with Makoanyane XI starlet Motiki Mohale will be crucial.

“The confidence and spirit is high. In the first leg it was the first time for some of our players to play an international match. But they have played at Setsoto before and the champions are at home,” Lerotholi said.

Indeed Matlama will have to look to use conditions in their backyard to their favour this afternoon.

Speaking to South Africa’s Kickoff magazine on Friday, SuperSport coach Gavin Hunt said he was worried by the Astroturf pitch at Setsoto.

There have been complaints before about the Astroturf pitch at the national stadium, most notably from Mozambique after they were humbled by the Makoanyane XI last April, and Hunt made a point of joining the bandwagon.

“The preparations are going well, but the thought of playing on an Astroturf pitch makes me mad. It will be hot and the turf will not help our cause; but we will just have to soldier on,” Hunt complained.

Hunt said SuperSport had struggled before on an Astroturf fields.

“It is hard to control the ball. I’ve seen it before that’s why I’m not looking forward to playing on such a pitch but at the end of the day most African countries use them so we just have to get used to the idea,” Hunt said.

Hunt said his team would look for an early away goal in order to complicate matters even further for Lesotho’s champions.

He added that he planned to retain the majority of the starting line-up from the first leg.

“If we get an early goal we will unsettle them because an away goal will double the trouble for our opponents,” Hunt said.

“It depends on who is fit and who is not,” he added regarding his team selection. “But we will take most of the players who played in the first game. I will have to look at the players that are registered and make a final decision later.”

Whichever team is selected SuperSport is sure to face a hostile reception this afternoon at the Slaughterhouse.

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