Bantu . . . . . . . . . (0) 1
Matlama . . . . . . . (1) 2
MAFETENG — Bantu’s Vodacom Premier League title dreams were shattered by a 2-1 loss at home yesterday to a more determined Matlama.
It was the second time in recent weeks the coach-less outgoing champions played spoilers, following another 2-1 victory over a hapless Linare at the end of April.
A second minute goal via the combination of Phafa Tšosane and Brown Makobe and an 80th penalty by Litšepe Marabe were enough this time for Tse Putsoa.
“We gave Matlama too much respect today,” a dejected Tšehla Lerotholi said after his side’s loss.
“We weren’t prepared, they were more committed than us.”
The Bantu coach however refused to throw in the towel in their quest for the league title.
“I still have hope. There are still two games to go and in football anything is possible,” Lerotholi insisted.
It is still mathematically possible for Bantu to claim a first-ever championship in club history.
A Matšo Matebele can still reach 51 points by the time the premiership season ends in three weeks time.
But in simple terms their championship rivals LDF and LCS would both have to lose at least two of their remaining games.
LDF are top with 48 points with three games left while LCS have 45 points with four games in the bag.
Both are in action this afternoon as Sohle-Sohle face Linare and LCS host LMPS.
Bantu meanwhile are third with 45 points and two games left.
It had looked all so rosy for the Mafeteng side but now it’s looking bleak.
Bantu, who boasted the best home record in the country, were on a three-match winning streak and after LDF’s unexpected 1-0 loss to Likhopo on Wednesday night, hopes of an historic maiden title win was re-ignited.
But that confidence and expectation can also be dangerous and Bantu’s bubble was burst just two minutes into the game.
Possibly still intoxicated with the dreams of a title win, Bantu swarmed uncontrollably like bees to honey towards Matlama goals.
That left the hosts open at the back and on the break Tšosane’s cross was skewed into his own net by Bantu defender Makobe.
It was a blow Bantu were never able to recover from.
The Mafeteng side has thrived on being the underdogs this season but as favourites they were stuck in the mud unable to follow the same patterns and principles that have been their hallmark under Lerotholi.
There were other factors too. Heavy rain in recent days meant Bantu hadn’t been able to train and yesterday the pitch was a mud-heap. The Mafeteng fans who have regularly been a feature of Bantu’s rapid rebirth were also conspicuous by their absence.
Instead it was the small bunch of travelling Matlama fans who were making all the noise.
Things didn’t change much in the second half. Matlama had confidence coursing through their veins. Tšosane and Tšoanelo Koetle were controlling the midfield, Nkau Lerotholi and Motiki Mohale sweeping up at the back and upfront Marabe and Motlalepula Chabeli were a constant threat on the break.
Left-back Thapelo Mokhele could have doubled the lead in the 65th minute but thumped his shot over the bar.
Bantu, possibly aware of their slipping hopes, tried to reply. From the midpoint of the second half they created more sustained pressure and the closest was Khalefo Nkuebe’s shot that was deflected inches wide of the post.
But the home side’s increasing desperation to score always meant they were liable to a killer blow on the counterattack and it came in the 80th minute.
A long ball by Sello Seholoholo found Chabeli’s darting run in behind the defence and just as the striker was about to pull the trigger he was pulled down by keeper Daniel Jousse.
Up stepped the impressive Marabe to coolly send Jousse the wrong way from the penalty spot and send Matlama’s fans into ecstasy.
Bantu pulled one back a minute from time, Tlali Maile converting a penalty past Matsoai Shokhoe after Koetle’s handball.
But, needing a win to keep their hopes on track, it always was too little too late for A Matšo Matebele.
“I’m very happy, our players had commitment,” Lehlohonolo Mokhele, who is one of the senior players at the helm of Matlama for the past five games, said.
“(This kind of performance) has always been there this season. We are looking forward to our next game,” he said.
Bantu’s next game is next week Wednesday when they travel to Lioli, but a win against their Teyateyaneng rivals may not be enough. A Matšo Matebele, just like Linare, will probably have to wait another year to end their championship drought.