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Vodacom Cup reaches climax

Teboho Molapo

ROMA — Defending champions LCS will face Matlama in the final of the Vodacom Soccer Spectacular this afternoon after Thulo Ranchobe and Lieta Lehloka gave them a 2-0 win over LDF in a hard-fought semi-final in Roma yesterday.
It is Masheshena’s first appearance in a major Cup final since beating the self-same LDF in last year’s Soccer Spectacular final on penalties.
And LCS were on the road to the final, again set for Roma, as early as the 10th minute when Ranchobe spectacularly volleyed in Ralekoti Mokhahlane’s pinpoint cross-field pass, with his left foot.
Eight minutes later, a dynamic Masheshena thought they had doubled their lead when Refiloe Potse’s header struck the underside of the crossbar. Almost immediately afterwards, LCS right-back Katleho Lethabela struck the near post after a well worked corner kick.
LDF did have chances to draw level, but the Ratjomose side’s hopes were extinguished midway through the second half Lehloka when Lehloka rammed home a penalty.
LCS will now have to conquer the on-fire Matlama who, earlier in the day, had come from behind to beat Likhopo 2-1 at the same venue.
Bishop Molatoli’s boys had taken the lead in the 11th minute after defender Rethabile Nkoe headed-home, from a corner. But Tse Putsoa were back on level terms in the 22nd minute when the in-form Litšepe Marabe rasped a thunderbolt free-kick past Kananelo Makhooane. The winger now leads the goal-scoring table with six goals.
The game itself, between two bitter rivals, was a frenetic one with the sides at each other’s throat for the entire first half. And even though the pace slowed slightly after the break,  there were still juicy-tackles aplenty.
But just when it seemed the match was heading into extra time, Matlama leftback Thapelo Mokhehle’s speculative drive dipped viciously in front of Makhooane, who could only parry the ball. Dlomo Monapathi was the first to react, smashing the ball high into the net in the 82nd minute to send Matlama’s travelling fans wild.
Tse Pustoa’s celebrations were briefly soured when captain, Tšoanelo Koetle was correctly sent off for a crude lunge on Mokone Marabe, but Matlama held on for a famous victory.
“We won this game from the toss. Likhopo cannot beat Matlama,” Matlama coach, Ntebele Taole said after his side’s win. “There was nothing that scared us, even after we conceded the goal. Likhopo is a team that only plays one style of football (and) they are our children.”
Matlama are now possibly 90 minutes away from the M360 000 jackpot and their first major crown since becoming Top Four kings in 2007.
“What we are going to do is just rest for tomorrow’s match. What I am teaching these boys is very hard to stop. The only way to stop Matlama is if you put all the players in defence,” Taole said.
All will be told this afternoon.

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