|The wait is finally over for Matlama...|
Matlama have been crowned 2018 LNIG Top 8 champions after a pulsating 3-1 win over Bantu in the final at Setsoto Stadium this afternoon.
Tse Putsoa’s triumph is historic on several levels. Firstly and most importantly to the club’s fans, the victory ends Matlama’s eight-year trophy drought. The Pitso Ground outfit hadn’t won any silverware since winning the league title in 2010.
Matlama have also ruined Bantu’s chances of becoming the first side to win a treble and claim a clean sweep of all domestic trophies – A Matšo Matebele are currently top of the Econet Premier League and had already captured the Independence Cup in October.
Tse Putsoa are also the first team other than Lioli or Bantu to win the LNIG Top 8 since it was launched in 2014.
Matlama’s win is made even more remarkable by how improbable it was at the turn of the year. Even heading into to today’s final Matlama were heavy underdogs having not featured in a final since the 2016 Independence Cup when they lost to Lioli.
Moreover, the last time Matlama and Bantu had met – in December in the league – A Matšo Matebele ran out 4-2 winners.
However, Matlama have been reborn under Mosito Matela who took over as coach in October after a rough start to the season and a disappointing 2016/17 campaign in which Lesotho’s most successful club finished eighth in the league.
Over the past two months Matlama have beaten Lioli 4-1 in the league, overcome a first leg deficit to beat Kick4Life in the LNIG Top 8 quarterfinals and yesterday they outfoxed Lioli 1-0 to reach today’s final.
Despite their underdog status, confidence has been growing within Matlama as the weeks have passed and they were the more assertive side against Bantu. Their positive approach paid off handsomely and Tse Putsoa’s goalscoring heroes in the final were Phafa Tšosane, Lehlomela Ramabele and tournament top scorer Lebajoa Mosehlanyane.
It has been a complete team effort to get Matlama here, however. Captain Mabuti Potloane was immense in the centre of the park again and defender John Mohai won the final’s man of the match award for his stellar work at the back.
At the end of the day, coach Matela will go down in history as the man who ended the club’s second longest trophy drought and returned Matlama to the top of Lesotho football.
LNIG Top 8 awards:
Player of the tournament: Lebajoa Mosehlanyane (Matlama)
Top goalscorer: Lebajoa Mosehlanyane (Matlama)
Coach of the tournament: Mosito Matela (Matlama)
Goalkeeper of the tournament: Monaheng Ramalefane (Matlama)
Referee of the tournament: Lebalang Mokete
Assistant referee of the tournament: Lesupi Puputla
LNIG Top 8 Finals results:
Third place playoff
Lioli 3-2 LCS
Matlama 3-1 Bantu