Titans in Top8 showdown
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.