Quote of the week

“To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you're not, pretend you are.” – Muhammad Ali

Saturday, April 9, 2016

All eyes on LNIG Top 8 Finals

Bantu star-power - Litšepe Marabe (right)
The LNIG Top 8 finals are the main attraction this weekend. Four teams – Bantu, LCS, LDF and Lioli – remain in Lesotho’s richest cup competition. The tournament is in its third edition with Lioli winning the first competition in 2014 and Bantu victorious last year.

The semi-finals are this afternoon at Setsoto Stadium with the third-place playoff and final tomorrow at the national stadium.

Today Lioli meet LDF before defending champions Bantu face LCS. Lioli and Bantu have been kept apart in the semi-finals paving the way for a possible dream final. But, LDF and LCS stand in the way.

Lioli v LDF (13:00)
Tse Nala’s style v LDF’s power
Quarterfinal results
Lioli beat Sandawana 7-3 on aggregate
LDF beat Matlama 2-1 on aggregate

Lioli are in the running for a league and cup double and they go into the game against LDF as favourites. Tse Nala won the inaugural tournament in 2014 by beating Linare in the final. Their tie against LDF is tough to call, however. Both times the teams met in the league this season it ended in a 0-0 stalemate.

LDF have been able to frustrate Lioli whenever the teams have met and this afternoon’s game will again be a battle of wills.

Lioli play an attractive passing game, while Sohle-Sohle’s approach is built on power and direct football. Lioli have an abundance of gifted ball players, from Tšoanelo Koetle to Motlalepula Mofolo; their wingers, from Montoeli Sonopo to Tumelo Khutlang, are skilful troublemakers and upfront they have a strike-force that put seven past Sandawana in the last round.

LDF’s strategy under Motheo Mohapi, on the other hand, is a bit simpler. The defence is stout and physical, Molefe Lekoekoe pulls the strings in midfield, and normally it is up to Mojela Letsie to pit away any half chances Sohle-Sohle fashion.

A penalty shootout is not out of the question in this tie.

LDF midfield general Molefe Lekoekoe
Bantu v LCS (15:00)
Bantu’s star power v Masheshena’s efficiency
Quarterfinal results
Bantu beat Likila United 6-1 on aggregate
LCS beat Likhopo 2-0 on aggregate

Defending champions Bantu have been an inconsistent side in the 2015/16 season. Last year A Matšo Matebele beat Matlama 3-1 in the final and they have the quality to achieve a similar success again. Bantu have a plethora of stars and with their season having been so erratic, their star-power is their calling card. Since Bafokeng Mohapi arrived in January – Bantu’s third coach this season – there hasn’t been a discernable shift in game-plan.
Rather, the Mafeteng giants appear to be getting by on the ability of their star players. It is the reason why they have been inconsistent in the league, but it is also the reason they have done well in the big games, such as last week’s win over LCS.  

Bantu beat LCS 2-0 last week when the sides met in the Vodacom Premier League. However, Masheshena can’t be counted out.

In his first year as coach, ex-LCS captain Mpitsa Marai has improved the team and has brought the efficiency that was the hallmark of the great Masheshena sides he played for. Marai spent 10 years, from 2000 to 2010, as a player at LCS.

In that time he won everything on offer in the local game, including back-to-back league titles in 2006 and 2007. Last weekend’s league loss to Bantu scuppered LCS’s title hopes and they will be out for revenge today.

Like the first semi, this is a close game to call, but Bantu’s star-power gives them the slight advantage.

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