Matlama find magic touch once again

MASERU — When Matlama spent the off-season embroiled in boardroom turmoil, it was reasonable to assume this would be another season of misery for the famous club.
Matlama, Lesotho’s oldest and most successful club, finished fifth in the Premiership last term — out of the top four for only the second time in six seasons.
Tse Putsoa then proceeded to bicker bitterly amongst themselves and by the time a new committee was acrimoniously elected at the end of August — the third in a space of 12 months — Motlalepula Chabeli from B Division outfit Roller Stars was the only signing of note coach Ntebele Taole had made.
Matlama’s 0-0 draw with newly promoted Nyenye Rovers in Maputsoe on the league’s opening weekend only seemed to justify doubters.
However, Tse Putsoa have gone on to collect 20 points from a possible 24. They have lost just once, a 0-1 reverse two weeks ago to 10-man LDF who, in truth, had been peppered worse than an army target board.
But that was a temporary blip and Saturday’s 5-1 thumping of Butha-Buthe Roses saw Matlama leap back to the top of the Vodacom Premier League.
But the hard-to-please Taole was still unhappy with his side’s performance. “They didn’t play like we wanted them to,” he said.
“The players just took the team as Roses and they relaxed.”
Maybe Taole had reason to be unhappy; Matlama — expected to beat a Roses side rock-bottom of the league — failed to inspire with their style of play. But Tse Putsoa did show the ruthlessness only LCS have shown, in recent years.
Matlama have now scored 18 league goals in nine matches — five more than the next-best side, LDF.
Primary to that form has been Litšepe Marabe, who is in the form of his life. When the left-winger is not scoring goals he is creating them, as he proved against Roses — scoring three and providing another. It was his second hat-trick in a space of four matches and he is the side’s top scorer in all competitions with eight goals. Whether he is hogging the left-side  touchline, cutting inside or switching flanks, he has caused mayhem.
Behind Marabe at left-back, Thapelo Mokhehle has put his early travails with the national team behind him and has been in exceptional form. Indeed, Matlama’s strength at the moment comes from the flanks; right-back Tšoanelo Koetle has been outstanding and revealed himself as a set-piece specialist, once scoring from a free-kick.
Upfront, Dlomo Monapathi made a classy return to local football, scoring a wonderful striker’s goal. In defence, Nkau Lerotholi has returned and in goals Matlama have Liteboho Mokhesi, one of the country’s best young keepers.
If Taole could complain, it is in central midfield.
Despite his fine form, Lehlohonolo Mokhele has been operating in a more advanced position. Forced back into his deeper role to accommodate Monapathi, he failed to impose himself.
Indeed, despite the 5-1 score-line, Matlama rarely took a stranglehold of the midfield against a side that looked out of their depth and even allowed Roses to look dangerous. Pali Tšalong was out on Saturday but Matlama’s midfield remains a weakness for a side with title-aspirations; they are without a dominating figure like LDF’s Molefe Lekoekoe or Likhopo’s Nyakhane Nyakhane.
On the signings front, Matlama have re-signed striker Dlomo Monapathi while Lioli have Motlalepula Mofolo back in their colours. The duo had been with Orlando Pirates’ development side since 2006   
Both players scored for their respective clubs on their league debuts this past weekend. Monapathi scored in Matlama’s 5-1 win over Butha-Buthe Roses and Mofolo was on the score-sheet in Lioli’s 4-0 victory against Majantja.
Monapathi has been out for a year after having knee surgery.
“I wanted to get some game-time,” Monapathi told the Lesotho Times on Monday.
“I feel good but I’m not 100 percent fit. I just want to score a lot of goals and help Matlama win the league championship and Vodacom Soccer Spectacular.”
Meanwhile, Lioli marketing and communications manager Moeketsi Pitso confirmed the case involving three players — Sello ‘Muso, Brown Makobe and Mohapi Ntobo, who went on a drinking binge on the eve of the team’s Vodacom Spectacular first leg match against Likhopo  in Butha-Buthe three weeks ago — was now before the executive committee.
“The other players held a meeting and showed disgust at the behaviour of their teammates,” Pitso said.
In weekend results, champions Lioli bounced back from a 0-0 draw with an empathic 4-0 win over Majantja in Mohale’s Hoek.  LCS’s early season wobble continued as they lost 0-1 to LMPS. Rovers got their first point since beating Lerotholi on the opening day of the season, with a one-all against Joy.
The Premier League takes a break for the Vodacom Soccer Spectacular this weekend.

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