The 2018/19 league season in brief

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Moorosi Tsiane

THE curtain finally came down on the 2018/19 Econet Premier League season last Saturday and Matlama were crowned champions for the first time in eight seasons.

For winning their 10th league title, Tse Putsoa also bagged M500 000.

In this review, the Lesotho Times analyses the performance of each of the league’s 14 teams.

Matlama: The Thabile Secker coached outfit survived all their tests this season and at the end they were crowned the league champions.

Tse Putsoa started the season well beating Linare 4-0 in Maputsoe.

In their second match, Matlama were held to a goalless draw by Sefotha-fotha but the Sea-Point outfit returned much stronger in the third match walloping Likhopo 3-0 to return to the top spot.

They continued on a good note until another draw with Galaxy and struggled onwards as they went on to lose to Kick4Life and were overtaken to the top spot by LCS. However, they did not throw in the towel.

Their striker Motebang Sera was among the best performers scoring to help the team win matches.

Matlama suffered a blow in January when their vice-captain Phafa Tšosane held them at ransom and decide not to attend training sessions until his contractual grievances were addressed.

Secker had to ensure that his charges do not lose focus and they kept on winning matches despite Tšosane’s absence. Luckily, the management managed to solve the issues with the player and he returned to training with the rest of the team giving Secker more options.

Matlama kept pushing until they were back in the driving seat shortly after the second round of the League resumed.

Matlama lost four, drew two and won 20 matches. Sera, who finished as the league’s top scorer, was their best player and also ended the season in style netting a brace against Linare.

Other players who, rose to the occasion were Jane Thabantšo, John Mohai, Kefuoe Mahula, Rethabile Mokokoana, the captain Mabuti Potloane and their best signing Bushy Moletsane.

Bantu: In second spot is Bantu. The Mafeteng outfit failed to defend its title and finished the season as the first runners-up to Matlama who kept them two points away from glory.

James Madidilane’s side started their title defence on the back foot having to come from a goal down to draw one-all with Sefotha-Fotha.

A Matšo Matebele’s campaign was also dented by their participation in the CAF champions League which started last November and had to play catch-up in the league.

Bantu played well in the champions’ league but were unfortunately drawn against AS Vita of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Congolese relegated them to the Confederations Cup, where they also failed to progress after being knocked out by Enugu Rangers of Nigeria.

Bantu tried to fight back on the domestic front but were inconsistent losing to the likes of LMPS while at the same time failing to beat minnows like Swallows and eventually surrendered the title to rivals Matlama.

Bantu’s key players this season were Litšepe Marabe, debutant Neo Mokhachane, Mokone Marabe, Hlompho Kalake, Lindokuhle Phungwula and their defence stalwart Mkhwanazi Mkhwanazi, who also debuted with them this season.

LCS: Once again, the correctional service side squandered chances of clinching silverware dropping points unnecessarily.

Just like in the past seasons, LCS looked promising ending the first round on top of the league table but choked in the middle of the second round and surrendered the pole position to the eventual winners Matlama.

LCS had a slow start playing to a one-all draw with Swallows but they had a turn of fortunes beating rookies Galaxy 3-1.

The Mpitsa Marai coached team continued with their fine form until the end of the first round. However, things took a turn for the worse in the second round as inconsistency cost them the lead.

At the end of the season Masheshena had to settle for the third spot finish.

LCS’ top performers were Sepirit Malefane, who also regained his place in the national team, goalkeeper Sam Ketsekile and converted wing backs Thabang Malane and Khethisi Masenyetse.

LDF: In fourth were the army side. The side had another sterling season that saw them breaking a decade-long trophy drought by winning the Top8 tournament.

Motheo Mohapi did a splendid job with this group of mostly new players who joined towards the end of last season.

Koete Mohloai gave LDF hope with his winner against Majantja at the start of the season.

Sohle-Sohle had a fine run until they were disrupted by the injuries on some of their key players such as Likano Mphuthi, Lepheana Mofolo and Tšepo Toloane.

At the end of the season LDF has once again booked a spot in top four finish beating Lioli to the top four.

Toloane, Mohloai, Letlatsa Moshoeshoe, Morena Moloinyane were among top performers for the army side.

Kick4Life: The Old Europa outfit climbed a notch up from last season’s position ending in fifth.

In his first season at the helm of the team, Bob Mafoso made a good start beating Lioli 2-1.

In their second match, Kick4Life 0-0 with LCS.

Mafoso started well with no defeat in the first four matches until they went for a five-match winless streak.

They however found their footing towards the middle of the season.

The departure of their defender Thabo Masualle in January also worked against the side as the center back duo of Moruti Thamahane and Likano Tele failed to work out.

To add to their woes, another former Likuena star Bokang Mothoana suffered a knee injury which ended his season.

The side at one point looked like title contenders but they were too inconsistent.

A fifth position finish was indeed an improvement for Mafoso compared to sixth in the 2018/19 season.

Kick4Life’s top performers were new comers Tšeliso Botsane, Paballo Mafereka, Bonang Mohapi, Mokoteli Mohapi and Khubetsoana Kamela.

LMPS: For the second season in a row LMPS finishes in the top eight of the league.

Under the new coach Teele Ntšonyana, LMPS has improved and without doubt caused headaches for top sides like Bantu and Lioli.

The former Likuena striker brought stability into the police outfit, which for a long time has struggled due indiscipline.

Ntšonyana gave new and young players a chance while also releasing some of the older players.

Simunye started by edging Galaxy 1-0 in their first match and went on to beat Majantja by a similar score line in their second match.

Roping in Ntšonyana as their head coach in January this year replacing Nthako Nalane paid off for the side and surely they will be looking forward to next season.

LMPS’ best performers were striker Monyatheli Ntobo, goalkeeper Sekhoane Moerane, Tsoarelo Mokoaleli and Thapelo Fako.

Lioli: Once again Tse Nala had a terrible season finishing outside the top four for the first time in six years.

Under the guidance of former Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) technical director Lehlohonolo Thotanyana, Lioli finished seventh dropping three steps.

Unlike last season, Tse Nala however, didn’t finish the season empty handed as they clinched the Independence Top4 trophy.

Lioli’s season was riddled with inconsistency and they failed to beat the so-called small teams.

It was clear that Thotanyana, who won the league with Lioli in 2012/13, will have a lot of reinforcements to bring when the winter transfer window opens next month.

The core of his team is old and they struggled to match their opponents’ energy.

The absence of key midfielder Tšoanelo Koetle, who missed the whole of the first round due to discipline, also affected Tse Nala as they struggled to get his replacement.

Lioli also had off the field problems which saw their president Lebohang Thotanyana and other members in the executive committee resigning in the middle of the season.

The team held a special conference which resolved that Thotanyana should continue with his duties until his term ends next season but the later made a U-turn towards the end of the season.

Lioli’s best performers were Diutlwileng Boikanyo and goalkeeper Jessy Matsie.

Liphakoe: For the first time since its promotion into the elite league, Liphakoe finished in the top eight, thanks to the appointment of South Africa international Thabo Tšutšulupa as the their head coach.

The former Kaizer Chiefs development team coach has brought so much stability to the Quthing outfit and it improved more than ever this season.

Tšutšulupa introduced a new philosophy of passing the ball around and it was good to see him sticking to his script even against bigger teams. In the end, it worked in his favour as his side qualified for the LNIG Top8 for next season.

The team’s best performers are Tšepang Makapa, Tankiso Chaba who also was called into the senior national team, Mohau Rammoneng, Basia Letuka and Tšeole Ranthimo.

Sefotha-fotha: The Mabote outfit developed a reputation as the giant killers started off the season holding the then defending champions Bantu to one-all.

However the Bafokeng Mohapi’s side’s inconsistency, especially against small teams, worked against its aspirations and potential of finishing in the top eight.

Sefotha-fotha’s best performers were Tanki Seoli, Mohau Mothibeli and Thato Tšoene.

Likhopo: The Red Army started the season badly losing against Liphakoe, Linare and Matlama in their first three games before registering a 2-0 win over Sefotha-fotha.

Just like Sefotha-fotha, Likhopo were also inconsistent and at some point looked like they will be playing for survival. However, their coach Halemakale Mahlaha ensured that his charges remained focused.

In the second round of the season, Likhopo were much better and were fighting for a top eight finish until they were affected by the industrial action by some of the senior players who boycotted matches over allowances. Eventually, they started losing points and lost the plot.

It was indeed a tough season for Likhopo, whose core of the team is made up of youngsters with no experience.

Best performers were Santi Ntšohi, Thabiso Mari, Tšepang Sefali and Tuntu Moroahae.

Linare: Once again the Hlotse outfit performed dismally and finished in the bottom half of the table.

Tse Tala’s season was filled with controversies that include clashes within its administration.

Linare made changes in its technical team in January this year courting in Freeze Ntene and Moses Ramafole as the head and assistant coaches replacing Teboho Lekhula. However, things did not really work out for Ntene and he was also suspended due to a string of poor results towards the end of the season.

Linare were once again fighting for survival and managed to keep their premier League status.

Best performers were Basia Tseki, Rethabile Selonyana and Rethabile Rasethuntša.

Swallows: The Mazenod outfit survived the chop in the last two matches of the season by beating Liphakoe 2-1 and LCS 1-0 on the last day to leapfrog Galaxy, who were third from the bottom on the last day.

Swallows were badly affected by their off the field problems than anything else and this saw them chopping and changing coaches.

To make things worse, the Premier League returnees lost some of their key players during the January transfer window with Retšelisitsoe Mopeli joining Lijabatho, Lehlohonolo Mothetsi joining Bantu and Katleho Lekaka joining Likhopo.

In the second round they parted ways with another coach Nthako Nalane, who accused the team’s management of neglecting the team resulting in the players’ failing to show commitment.

The side’s best performers are veteran goalkeeper Isaiah Mosala and Mohau Khali.

Galaxy: The Tšepo Nteso owned outfit, which made its debut season in the Premier League could not handle the heat and was relegated.

The side was affected mainly by poor management among other issues. Apart from that, the side started the season dismally despite showing traits of potential.

Galaxy also suffered a blow when some of its key players boycotted training sessions and matches at the beginning of the second round accusing the coach of favouritism.

The management ignored the ticking time bomb which cost them of their league status.

The side was 13th on the last day of the season and hoped for a win over LMPS while also praying that Swallows lose to LCS. Unfortunately, Swallows won while they lost 2-1 against Simunye and were relegated.

Hopefully, this was a lesson learnt and Galaxy will go back to the A Division and come back a better side.

Galaxy’s best performers were Tlou Billet, Thabo Mafatle, Tieho Ntulo and Moeketsi Malibeng.

Majantja: The writing was on the wall for the Mohale’s Hoek outfit that come end of the season, they will be relegated to the A Division.

The team was run like a spaza shop and was riddled with conflicts.

Majantja typically started the season dismally under South African Kabelo Malaphane. However, the management lacked seriousness to see success.

Players’ allowances were not paid in time due to the conflicts and Malaphane left after going for three months without his salary.

Majantja went for its executive committee elections in January but nothing changed and to worsen the situation, they lost out on their top goal scorer Keketso Snyder who joined Bantu.

The current coach Lekoane Lekoane tried to save the ship but it was already too late and there was nothing he could do as Majantja was eventually relegated.

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