TEYATEYANENG — Mpitsa Marai’s moment of madness may have ended Masheshena’s hopes of retaining their Premier League crown.
It was his inexplicable short back-pass that led to a second-half penalty for Lioli.
The result: the second goal of an eventual 3-1 victory for Lioli over LCS on Saturday.
Before then Masheshena — though dreary as the clouds that hung above Teyateyaneng — were, at 1-0 down, still in the game.
However, Marai’s howler and Malebanye Ramoabi’s resultant 52nd-minute strike effectively ended the game as a contest.
It was symptomatic of the day LCS had had.
For the opening hour the defending champions were a pale shadow of themselves.
“In all my years knowing LCS I have never seen them play like that,” Lioli coach Mosholi Mokhothu said after the game.
“I really don’t know why they played that way. Only they can tell you,” was the brutally honest answer his counterpart Katiso Mojakhomo gave.
For whatever reason, LCS just didn’t come out to play.
Playing, unusually, with one striker, LCS posed no attacking threat, allowing their visibly nervous hosts to get on top of them.
Lioli duly obliged, and in the 38th minute Ramoabi opened the scoring from a clever free-kick, sending Berea into pandemonium.
Still, only 1-0 at halftime, things for LCS after their first-half display could only get better.
Only they didn’t.
Soon after the interval Marai’s feeble back-pass was intercepted by the lively Shoai Mosola who was then felled by a retreating Poloko Mohale.
The resultant penalty was calmly slotted away by Lioli captain Ramoabi to make it 2-0.
Twenty-two minutes later it was 3-0.
Another penalty — this time after Lieta Lehloka handled the ball.
Again it was Ramoabi who converted to complete a hat-trick, in the process bagging Lioli three points.
To their credit LCS, now back to their orthodox 4-4-2 formation, pushed forward, creating more chances in 10 minutes than they had the whole game.
They got their reward in the 83rd minute, Thabane Rankara converting a penalty after Lawrence Molengoane was wrestled down in the box.
It started a brief period of pressure by LCS but it was too little too late.
Despite the defeat and its repercussions — LCS are now in third position, seven points behind LDF having played a game more — Mojakhomo refused to concede the title.
“We have made it more difficult for ourselves but the race is not over,” he said.