Sunday’s LNIG Top8 final between Bantu and Matlama was a thriller and really lived up to expectations.
Although Matlama scored an early goal through Mabuti Potloane, Mokone Marabe’s equaliser also in the first half, set the tone for a remarkable comeback, with the match ending 3-2 in favour of A Matšo Matebele.
The defeat must have been a bitter pill to swallow for Matlama, as the Sea Point outfit lost the Independence Cup to another bitter rival, Lioli, about five months ago.
But what I liked about Sunday’s tie was it gave us goals galore, as well as beautiful football throughout the entire 90 minutes.
Bantu showed their hunger for success from Saturday’s semi-final, in which they beat Likhopo 3-0.
The same determination was there again in the final, hence their deserved and comfortable win against one of their main rivals.
Bantu were very organised in all departments and maintained their regular defence which has been serving them so well of late.
However, their inspirational captain, Tlali Maile, deserves special mention as he led by example, which he has done on so many occasions for the Mafeteng-based premier league giants.
Maile is a true professional who is very disciplined, humble and always gives his all for the team.
Matlama, on the other hand, fielded a changed back-four on Sunday as Lisema Lebokollane, who was a holding midfielder in Saturday’s 9-8 penalty-shootout semi-final win against LCS, was switched to right back.
This tinkering proved to be Matlama’s undoing, as Bantu took advantage of the team’s lack of coordination to come from a goal down and claim the M100 000 winners’ prize.
This was a costly gamble for Matlama as you don’t experiment when facing an attacking machine such as Bantu, which boasts of the league’s top-scorer, Litšepe Marabe, as well as Lazola Tjokotjokoane, who was the tournament’s top hitman with six goals.
All in all, I think it was a good weekend of great football and credit should go to all the four teams that entertained us from Saturday.
Talking of our in-form players, I was a bit surprised with some of the players who have been called into the national team to play friendly matches against Botswana and possibly Zimbabwe.
And one of those players is veteran midfielder, Bushy Moletsane, who only returned to action recently following a lengthy injury layoff.
Moletsane has served this country with distinction, but like every other player, he must fight for his place in the national team and should never be picked on reputation.
The same goes for Mohau Kuenane, who has also struggled to hold his position as Lioli’s first-choice goalkeeper.
I also feel the coaches should have used these friendlies and the upcoming Cosafa tournament to build a team for the future, and by this, I mean calling up youngsters and not players in their mid-30s.
I know re-building a team takes a long time, but the coaches must learn from LCS who have parted ways with many of their stars who were lacking discipline and groomed youngsters such as Thabo Seakhoa. Seakhoa has been outstanding for LCS, and has been scoring regularly for his side.
I’m also surprised that the young striker has not been named in the national squad despite doing extremely well since arriving at Masheshena last season.
With the African Nations Championship (CHAN) coming up later this year, the coaches should have looked at such youngsters and many others from the national-under 20, which did so well in continental qualifiers last year.
The Cosafa tournament is about giving youngsters the chance to have that much-needed international exposure and hopefully, the coaches will have a re-think before the competition gets underway in May in South Africa.