As top guns fight for M100 000 LNIG Top8 prize
The LNIG Top8 tournament comes to a storming close this weekend with Bantu, Likhopo, Matlama and LCS battling-it-out at Setsoto Stadium for the M100 000 winners’ prize.
Bantu face Likhopo in the first semi-final at 1pm on Saturday, with Matlama and LCS battling-it-out in the other semi soon after with the winners meeting in the final the following day.
Bantu coach, Motlatsi Shale, hopes his charges would emerge victorious against a sleek Likhopo outfit boasting some of domestic football’s best talent, among them midfielder Bokang Mothoana and striker Thapelo Tale, and reach the final.
“We have not won anything this season and this is a great chance for us to add another trophy to our cabinet,” Shale said. “However, it will not be easy because we must start by beating Likhopo in the semi-final and there is no doubt this is easier said than done. Likhopo are a good side, but we are prepared for them in order to reach the final.”
Likhopo team manager, Qamako Mahao, on his part, said time had come for the Red Army to end their five-year trophy drought.
“Its been over five years since this team won a trophy and this is a chance to prove that we remain among the big teams in Lesotho,” Mahao said.
“We drew one-all against Bantu in a league match in Mafeteng two weeks ago, and this must have come as a disappointment to them so they would be out for revenge. I could say our match against Bantu would be a final before the final, so fans should not miss this showdown.
“We go to this match with a clean bill of health and Bantu should expect to see the best of Likhopo on Saturday.”
Matlama coach, Ntebele ‘Mocholene Tata’ Taole, is also confident Tse Putsoa would be crowned LNIG Top 8 champions come Sunday after prevailing over LCS in the semi-final on Saturday.
“The boys are playing good football and showed their quality and fighting spirit against Lioli on Sunday. Coming from a goal down to draw 1-1 against the league leaders proved the character of my team,” Taole said.
However, Taole admitted Matlama would have to be at their best against a ruthless LCS side that trounced Qoaling Highlanders 6-0 in a premier league match last weekend.
“We are now a very strong side following the addition of Mabuti Potloane and Nkau Lerotholi in January this year. We expect to fare much better this season, beginning with this tournament and later the league championship.”
Yet LCS spokesperson, Rantai Kofa, told the Lesotho Times there was no way Masheshena were not going to clinch the weekend tournament they last won in 2007.
“Our coach, Ntate Katiso Mojakhomo, is determined to win this trophy because it has eluded him for years now. That’s the big motivation going to the semi-final match on Saturday against Matlama,” Kofa said.
“This is the kind of match that gets the best out of our players and we will bring Matlama down like we did defending champions Lioli in the quarterfinals.”
Meanwhile, with competition’s winner pocketing M100 000, runners-up take home M80 000, third and fourth placed teams receive M60 000 and M50 000 respectively, while the four quarterfinalists get M30 000.
Last year’s winners, Lioli, walked away with M80 000.
Players to watch
Litšepe Marabe: The talented forward has surprised many with his devastating form, taking into consideration he did not play any competitive football last season during his time at South African first division side, Garankuwa United. Marabe is the premier league’s current top scorer with 16 goals, and will surely be Bantu’s main man at the weekend.
Bokang Mothoana: Despite struggling with injuries, ‘Lefty’ is the most valuable member of the Likhopo squad. The player’s versatility is his biggest advantage as he is at home in midfield and defence and can also play in attack. Mothoana’s other strength is that he is a free-kick specialist.
Thabo Seakhoa: The young striker is in his second season of topflight football, but has already become one of the league’s most prized assets. Seakhoa is currently LCS’ leading marksman with 10 league goals—six behind Marabe. If LCS are to grab the Top8 trophy, then Seakhoa would certainly play a leading role in this feat.
Phafa Tšosane: The arrival of Mabuti Potloane from Linare appears to have unsettled the Matlama captain a bit as he is now being deployed to the wing, but he remains Matlama’s best player on his day. Tšosane was player of the tournament in October’s Independence tournament where Matlama beat heavy odds reach the final before losing 11-10 to Lioli.