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Monday, March 12, 2018

LNIG Top 8 quarterfinals serve up a classic weekend

The LNIG Top 8 served up a thrilling weekend of action...

It was an action-packed weekend in the LNIG Top 8 quarterfinal second legs as eight teams battled to progress to the semi-finals.

Most of the drama was reserved for Sunday as reigning champions Lioli found their title defence hanging by a thread against LMPS while Kick4Life and Matlama met for another heavyweight clash.

It was a Moshoeshoe’s Day special and now only four teams remain in the 2018 LNIG Top 8.

Bantu 5-1 Sky Battalion (Bantu won 7-2 on aggregate)
League champions and LNIG Top 8 favourites Bantu finished off their quarterfinal job with a routine second leg win over Sky Battalion at the Maputsoe DiFA Stadium on Saturday.

Facing Sky Battalion has been the perfect tonic for Bantu after their CAF Champions League heartbreak at the hands of Swaziland’s Mbabane Swallows last month.

In the first leg, A Matšo Matebele were able to rest key players and test new combinations against a Sky Battalion side that was not only the weakest in the tournament, but is rooted to the bottom of the Econet Premier League.

In the second leg, Bantu coach James Madidilane didn’t take any chances, however. Taking a slender 2-1 lead on paper from the first leg, Madidilane named his strongest possible line-up for Saturday’s game despite suggestions by the South African coach he would rotate his team once more.

Starting XI v Sky Battalion:
Thabo Selisa – Johannes Molapo, Lekhooa Khoete, Tsietsi Khooa, Thapelo Mokhehle – Lindokuhle Phungulwa, Litšepe Marabe, Hlompho Kalake, Tsietsi Motšeare  – Tsebang Lebata, Mokone Marabe

Bantu were rewarded in emphatic fashion as Tsietsi Motšeare, Tsebang Lebata, Hlompho Kalake and Litšepe Marabe with a brace gave them a 5-1 second leg romp. A Matšo Matebele will now face LCS in the semi-finals as they look to capture an unprecedented domestic treble.

LCS 1-1 LDF (LCS won 6-1 on aggregate)
LCS kept LDF at bay to advance to semi-finals...
LCS did all the hard work in the first leg after a 5-0 win at the LCS Stadium two weeks ago. Although LDF coach Motheo Mohapi refused to give up on the tie, this was a lost cause and Masheshena comfortably finished the job in Maputsoe. It is a fourth successive semi-final appearance in the competition for LCS who have been losers in the last two finals to Lioli.

Mpitsa Marai’s charges will be hoping they can finally go one step better this season. Before that, however, Masheshena have the unenviable task of toppling the juggernaut that is Bantu in the semi-finals.

Kick4Life 1-3 Matlama (Matlama won 3-2 on aggregate)

In the lead up to the second leg both coaches spoke of needing to attack and they stayed true to their word as their teams served up a scintillating 90 minutes at the LCS Stadium on Sunday.

Before the game, Matlama coach Mosito Matela had insisted Tse Putsoa only need to improve their finishing if they were to go through to the semi-finals.

Kick4Life coach Leslie Notši, for his part, said his side couldn’t sit back on their 1-0 first leg win.

The upshot was a thriller for fans in attendance.

Matlama were ahead early through midfielder Phafa Tšosane as Tse Putsoa quickly cancelled Kick4Life’s away goals advantage from the first leg but just before halftime Likano Teele equalised to restore Kick4Life’s aggregate lead.

The second half was a classic with both teams landing blows like it was a heavyweight boxing bout.

After end to end action, it was Matlama who landed the sucker punch through Lebajoa Mosehlanyane who has been a revelation for Tse Putsoa since joining from Bantu in January.

The next goal was going to be all important; whichever team got it would win the tie. Once again Mosehlanyane came up big for Matlama to seal the game and keep Tse Putsoa’s hopes of ending an eight-year trophy drought alive.
... and Matlama overcame Kick4Life
LMPS 0-2 Lioli (Lioli won 2-1 on aggregate)  
While Matlama and Kick4Life provided the most fireworks, the most tension was reserved for the final game of the weekend as defending champions Lioli had to make sure they overcame a 1-0 first leg deficit against a LMPS side that hadn’t lost a game in 2018 to save their season.

The pressure was all on Tse Nala and their embattled coach Morena Ramorebodi who was facing calls from Lioli fans to leave after last week’s 4-1 league disaster against Matlama. To their credit, Lioli finally showed their big match temperament to overwhelm a determined and star-studded LMPS side.

Tumelo Khutlang gave Lioli the lead in the first half before influential midfielder Tšoanelo Koetle sealed the win with a second half penalty.

By avoiding defeat, Lioli keep their hopes of ending the season with a trophy alive. Tse Nala haven’t finished a season trophyless since the 2011/12 campaign. They have also hopefully kick-started life under Ramorebodi. Next up in the LNIG Top 8 they face Matlama on April 7.

LNIG Top 8 quarterfinal second leg results:
LCS 1-1 LDF (LCS won 6-1 on aggregate)
Bantu 5-1 Sky Battalion (Bantu won 7-2 on aggregate)
LMPS 0-2 Lioli (Lioli won 2-1 on aggregate)
Kick4Life 1-3 Matlama (Matlama won 3-2 on aggregate)

(April 7, Setsoto Stadium)
Lioli v Matlama
Bantu v LCS

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