Ti­tans in Top8 show­down

Lesotho Times - - Sport - Mikia Kalati

BANTU have vowed to de­fend their LNIG Top8 ti­tle this week­end and sal­vage their 2015/16 sea­son in which they have strug­gled for form in league matches.

A Matšo Mate­bele face LCS in the tour­na­ment’s sec­ond semi­fi­nal set for Set­soto Sta­dium at 3pm on Satur­day, hop­ing to progress to the fi­nal at Mashesh­ena’s ex­pense.

Li­oli battle LDF in the first semi­fi­nal sched­uled for 1pm at Set­soto on the same day, but Bantu for­ward, Mokone Marabe, is not look­ing too far ahead as he cau­tions against un­der­es­ti­mat­ing LCS.

“It’s not a se­cret that we haven’t had the best of cam­paigns and this is the only tro­phy for us if we are to sal­vage our pride as a team this sea­son.

“We are not in the race for the league ti­tle so this is our op­por­tu­nity to win a tro­phy this cam­paign,” Marabe said.

“The fact that we played LCS last week­end and beat them 2-0 means this will be one of our tough­est games of the sea­son.

“LCS will come at us like wounded tigers be­cause they would not want to lose to us again. But for us, last week­end’s win came at the right time as morale is quite high in our camp now and we all be­lieve we can de­fend our Top8 ti­tle and go some way to atone for a slow start to the league cam­paign.”

Mokone also says what gives Bantu con­fi­dence ahead of the week­end as­sign­ment is the form of strik­ers, Litšepe Marabe and La­zola Tjokotjok­wana. Both play­ers were on tar­get last week­end as Bantu reg­is­tered a fa­mous win against LCS who are third on the premier league ta­ble be­hind lead­ers Li­oli and sec­ond-placed Mat­lama. Bantu are a dis­tant fifth on the 14-team premier­ship ta­ble and ap­pear out of the race for the league ti­tle.

On his part, LCS coach, Mpitsa Marai, said the up­com­ing clash against Bantu was a dif­fer­ent test al­to­gether and could not be com­pared to a league match.

“The might have beaten us in the league at the week­end, but this is a knock­out com­pe­ti­tion which presents a dif­fer­ent chal­lenge and mo­ti­va­tion al­to­gether,” Marai said.

“We have a chance to win the Top8 tro­phy, just like the other three teams still in the com­pe­ti­tion. What mat­ters is for us to bounce back as quickly as pos­si­ble from last week­end’s de­feat and we have the chance to do just that on Satur­day.

“We saw our mis­takes in the 2-0 loss and will work on them be­fore we meet Bantu again on Satur­day. I think we have what it takes to go all the way and win the tour­na­ment.”

Ac­cord­ing to Marai, the ex­pe­ri­enced duo of Ralekoti Mokhahlane and Poloko Mo­hale, who missed last week­end’s match due to in­jury, would be avail­able for se­lec­tion this time around.

Mean­while, Li­oli and LDF open Satur­day’s pro­ceed­ings in what prom­ises to be an ex­plo­sive if not bruis­ing en­counter.

Play­maker Jerry Kamela says Li­oli would need to atone for last week­end’s 2-2 draw against Likhopo. Tse Nala were lead­ing 2-0 at Set­soto on Sun­day but al­lowed the Red Army to rally and force a share of the spoils in the highly en­ter­tain­ing league match.

“Cup com­pe­ti­tions are dif­fer­ent to league matches and what is im­por­tant is for us to show char­ac­ter af­ter a dis­ap­point­ing re­sult against Likhopo,” Kamela said.

“I know we have dropped a lot of im­por­tant points in re­cent matches, but we re­main a good side mo­ti­vated to win more tro­phies this sea­son.

“The Top8 com­pe­ti­tion gives us a chance to show we are still a force to reckon with.

“We have done this be­fore; we won this com­pe­ti­tion in 2014 so with or with­out some of our key play­ers who are bat­tling in­jury, I have no doubt we are good enough to con­quer the com­pe­ti­tion again.”

How­ever, Li­oli could find it dif­fi­cult to over­power a very de­ter­mined LDF side led by coach Motheo Mo­hapi.

“The big­gest chal­lenge for us is that a num­ber of our key play­ers are in­jured, among them star-mid­fielder Molefe Lekoekoe,” Mo­hapi said.

“But de­spite this predica­ment we find our­selves in, our goal has not changed. The plan re­mains bring­ing some­thing to the plate af­ter so many years strug­gling to win a tro­phy.

“I know our per­for­mance has not been con­sis­tent this sea­son and this has been due to the big changes we have made to our squad so the new play­ers we have brought in are still get­ting used to play­ing at this level.

“But we will go there and fight against a very good op­po­nent in Li­oli.”

Win­ners of the an­nual com­pe­ti­tion spon­sored by Le­sotho Na­tional In­sur­ance Group ( LNIG) will walk away with M100 000, while the run­ners-up take home M80 000. The third-placed team re­ceives M60 000 and fourth-placed side gets M40 000.

BANTU play­maker Lit­sepe Marabe (left) takes on LCS mid­fielder Khethisa Masenyetsa - File pic.

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