Interesting battle for the championship

Matlama last Saturday edged Lioli 1-0 in one of the biggest matches on the domestic football calendar.

The win helped third-placed Tse Putsoa keep their league title-hopes alive and move within four points of leaders Bantu, with eight matches still to play before the season comes to a close.

Fourth-placed Linare are also in the mix and at the moment, one can safely say it’s a three-horse race — between Bantu, second-placed Lioli and Matlama — while Linare, two points behind, are the dark horses in the title chase.

Bantu are on 42 points, while Lioli and Matlama are tied on 35 points but the former have a better goal-difference.

Matlama will be in yet another tough match on Saturday when they host Bantu at Setsoto in a game pundits have dubbed the title-decider.

Both teams won their fixtures last weekend and head into Saturday’s clash with everything to play for.
Matlama’s big win over Lioli should have surely boosted their players’ confidence, who will now be highly-motivated to complete a double over their two rivals in successive weekends.

I have to say it has been a while since I last saw the race for the championship being this interesting.
And despite their loss last Saturday, Lioli are still very much in the race and their cause has been made a bit easier this week as they face bottom-of-the-table Melele on Saturday.

The Qacha’s Nek side have only won once this campaign and look well on their way back to the A Division.
As for Matlama, their victory over Lioli was also a welcome relief for their new coach, Mofihli Makoele, who had been winless since taking over the big job last month.

Luckily for Makoele, his troops were able to deliver when it mattered most and against their bitter rivals.
The new Matlama coach had said it from the start that his biggest test would be beating Bantu and Lioli, if his side were to take the title-race to the wire.

He now has a chance to accomplish that mission on Saturday, having already beaten Tse Nala.
At the same time, a win for Bantu could see the Mafeteng-based side closing-in on their first-ever league title.

A Matšo Matebele, as Bantu are affectionately known, have made a huge investment on big-name players over the last three years and it could break their hearts if they fail to win the league championship again this season.

They surely cannot afford to choke again the way they did last season when they lost the title to Lioli at the last hurdle.

Based on all this, it looks like it is going to be a thriller at Setsoto Stadium on Saturday.
It will also be interesting on the field of play as former Matlama players — Thapelo Mokhehle, Dlomo Monaphathi and Liteboho Mokhesi — all line-up against their former team that gave them the platform to become stars.

Matlama midfielders Tefo Maipato, Pali Tšalong as well as Tau Qobose, also have a point to prove against Bantu, having had unhappy spells at the Mafeteng outfit.

There have also been question marks over the standard of refereeing in recent weeks, especially now that the league has reached its climax.

This has to be addressed as soon as possible because we would want a spectacular — not a controversial — end to the race.

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