“as Lioli narrowly escapes defeat”

By: Ts’oloane Mohlomi

Matlama Football Club (FC) and Lioli FC drew a goal apiece in a nail biting encounter hosted at the Bambatha Ts’ita Sports Complex on Sunday in Maseru.

The highly anticipated match arguably between two title contenders was graced with the presence of The RT. Hon. Prime Minister Sam Matekane flanked by Minister of Energy and Meteorology Nqosa Mahao and businessman Teboho Kobeli among others who came to witness the splendour of local football.

In the stands scores of fans from both teams (approximately 5000) flooded the venue and an evident sea of blue in support of Matlama was visible on the far south end while the maroon of Lioli occupied the opposite northerly stand.

The atmosphere didn’t disappoint as an electrifying buzz could be felt around the stadium where supporters could be heard chanting songs and pounding drums in support of their clubs.

Both teams didn’t waste any time and the game started like a house on fire presenting a high tempo game right from the start. Both teams looked to size each other up and Matlama was evidently confronted by a far stronger side than Naughty Boys FC which they thumped by six goals to nil in a previous encounter at the same venue.

It was Matlama however, who were the better of the two sides, dominating possession and creating far more scoring opportunities than Lioli. After a scramble in Matlama’s backline which nearly resulted in a first goal for Lioli, “Tse Putsoa” minutes later hit the cross bar on the Lioli side in a nail biting moment which kept Lioli supporters on the edge of their seats.

Lioli FC coach Motheo Mohapi seemed unsettled and couldn’t take his seat for the entire duration of the half as it seemed like one way traffic in their half as Matlama looked like they would score with every chance they got.  Matlama talisman Jane Thabants’o looked to inflict pressure on Lioli hoping they would crack but it went 0:0 into half time with no team having a goal to their name.

The possession was 54% to 45% in favour of Matlama going into the break.

 The scorching sun was concealed in the clouds in the second half and the subsiding heat gave way to cooler conditions resulting in a far more explosive 45 minutes. Lioli came back better to sussed it out in the second half, but Matlama seemed to still have an upper hand and it only seemed like a matter of time till they scored.

Matlama’s moment finally came in the 65th minute when Phafa Ts’osane converted a spectacular goal which went far in the top left corner of the Lioli goalkeeper’s goal. 1:0 was the score line.

Lioli fought back with all they had as they looked to level matters and they responded just moments in the 68 minute with a controversial goal which ricocheted below the top left cross bar and took a bounce before getting back into play.

The referee didn’t need any goaline technology or Video Assistance Referee (VAR) as he seemed adamant that the ball had crossed the line and went on to award it, much to the dismay of the Matlama supporters who weren’t convinced.

 After 90 minutes the whistle was blown and the game ended one all as both teams settled for a point each. The result saw Matlama continue their reign in pole position on the summit of the Vodacom Premier League, while Lioli followed on second place.

In a post- match interview Lioli FC Coach Motheo Mohapi as they only fell two points short of summiting the Vodacom Premier League, their overall intentions were to bring back the pride and honour of Lioli. He said although there were a number of shortcomings in the game he was still proud of his team because they had displayed a brave performance.

“We want to follow the mandate of Lioli and bring back that sense of pride in the team. You can see the amount of Lioli supporters that are present here today that we are well on course, and having said that we will work hard in getting the necessary points we need to summit the log and ultimately win the league,” he said.

Matlama FC coach Halemakale Mahlaha said a lapse of concentration and lack of covering of their goalkeeper was the reason for Lioli’s equaliser in the 68th minute, With regards to the missed chances he said it seldom happens that players would inadvertently underperform in certain areas but said over all he was happy with his team’s performance.

“You know it happens sometimes in football where you find that players are not at their peak in certain areas, and that’s exactly what happened today. But generally we played a good game overall and I’m happy with my player’s performance. We just need to go back to the drawing board and fine-tune our finishing and converting I think.