By Mikia Kalati
MASERU — Bantu’s title-credentials will be put to the test on Saturday when the Premier League pacesetters face Matlama at Setsoto Stadium.
Matlama, who are third on the 14-team Premiership table, wade into the fixture high in confidence after a 1-0 win over bitter rivals and second-placed Lioli last Saturday.
The hard-fought win at LCS Ground boosted morale in camp following a goalless draw against Qoaling Highlanders and a 1-2 loss to Mpharane Celtic, according to the team’s inspirational captain, Nkau Lerotholi, who also believes Matlama have the pedigree to hand Bantu their first defeat since the 2013/14 season started in August last year.
“A lot will be at stake in this match because a win will narrow the gap between us and Bantu, which stands at seven points at the moment,” Lerotholi told the Lesotho Times on Tuesday.
“But Matlama are very strong at the moment and can match Bantu in every department. You also have to remember we have a new coach (Mofihli Makoele, who joined the team last month) and it looks like the players are now getting to understand his philosophy.”
Lerotholi warned Bantu’s unbeaten run of 12 wins and six draws could end on Saturday, thereby throwing the league title race wide open.
“Last weekend’s win over Lioli seems to have done us a lot of good because the boys are now very motivated and looking forward to ending Bantu’s unbeaten run,” said Lerotholi.
The long-serving defender further said his team is “as hungry as Bantu and Lioli” for the league championship, hence his confidence of an outstanding performance come Saturday.
“I’m very positive that we will give a brave and outstanding display to win the match against Bantu.”
On the other hand, Bantu captain, Tlali Maile, downplayed the importance of Saturday’s tie, which he said would be treated like any other competitive match.
“We will treat it like any other league tie, which means we will go in there to get all the three points. At this stage of the season, we are not thinking about winning the title. But the target is to win every remaining match of the season, and only that will guarantee us the title.”
After losing the league title to Lioli last season despite leading the race for the better part of the campaign, Maile said the memories remain as painful as the day Tse Nala lifted the coveted trophy at Bantu’s expense.
“It still hurts, but we are much wiser now and will be guarding against the same thing happening again.”
Meanwhile, in other league matches taking place on Saturday, Lioli travel to Qacha’s Nek to face Melele, while LCS host Nyenye Rovers.
On Sunday, Joy host Likhopo at Leribe Pitso Ground, LMPS are at home to LDF at PTC Ground, Linare receive Qoaling Highlanders in Hlotse and Mphatlalatsane entertain Mpharane Celtic in St Monica’s.
Saturday: Melele v Lioli- Qacha; LCS v Nyenye –LCS Ground; Matlama v Bantu-Setsoto Stadium.
Sunday: Joy v Likhopo-Leribe Pitso Ground; LMPS v LDF-PTC Ground; Linare v Qoaling Highlanders-Hlotse; Mphatlalatsane v Mpharane Celtic-St Monica’s.