Quote of the week

“To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you're not, pretend you are.” – Muhammad Ali

Monday, April 24, 2017

Kalake inspires Bantu, Kick4Life clinch top four spot – Weekend Talking Points

It was another enthralling weekend of Vodacom Premier League action with drama in the battles for the title, top four, top eight and survival.

Here are the talking points from the weekend’s round of games:
Hlompho Kalake (right) has had a brilliant season for Bantu...
Kalake inspires Bantu, again
When the season winds down it is not only time for titles to be decided but also time to pick the best players of the campaign. One player that will be in the conversation is Hlompho Kalake who has been the heartbeat of Bantu’s title charge. The playmaker was at his inspirational best once again on Sunday as his brace helped A Matšo Matebele overcome a good Sky Battalion side 3-1 at Setsoto Stadium.

The win means Bantu remain in control of the Vodacom Premier League after the weekend’s action. The Mafeteng giants are two points clear of champions Lioli who had briefly gone to the top of the standings on Saturday after beating rivals Matlama 2-0.

Bantu now just need to win their final two games and they will be crowned champions. Key to their hopes will be Kalake who now leads all midfielders in goalscoring. He has consistently been Bantu’s driving force and, importantly, has come up big in the big moments as he did last month when James Madidilane’s side beat Lioli 2-1, a result that may ultimately decide the championship.

Also significant for A Matšo Matebele is the form of striker Lazola Tjokotjokwana who also found the back of the net against Sky Battalion to get his second goal in as many games.

It had been one of Bantu’s concerns that although goals have come from different sources – such as Kalake or Litšepe Marabe or Tsebang Lebata – they didn’t always have an on-fire striker to finish chances which is always crucial at this time of the year.

Stat: The average number of points it takes to win the Vodacom Premier League since it became 14 teams in 2013/14 season is 60 points.
-          Bantu 59 points in 2013/14
-          Lioli 63 points in 2014/15
-          Lioli 59 points in 2015/16

The title race will go down to the last minute with Bantu left to face Sundawana and Kick4Life in their final two games while Lioli end their season against Likhopo and Sky Battalion. It is reassuring for A Matšo Matebele that their best players are shining at the right time.

Thabo Masualle (right) and his Kick4Life teammates
are in the top four after Sky Battalion's loss...
Kick4Life seal top four finish
Sky Battalion’s loss to Bantu also had an impact on Kick4Life. Thanks to the defeat fifth-placed SK can only reach 44 points if they win their last two games. It means, thanks to their goalless draw with Rovers on Saturday, Kick4Life, with 45 points, can’t finish lower than fourth.

Welcome to the Top Four Club, Kick4Life.

Most top four finishes since 2005/06
Team
Top 4s
Years
LCS
8
2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016
LDF
8
2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
Lioli
7
2006, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
Matlama
7
2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016
Bantu
5
2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Linare
4
2006, 2008, 2011, 2014
LMPS
3
2007, 2009, 2010
Sundawana
1
2016

Leslie Notši’s side join LCS, LDF, Lioli, Matlama, Bantu, Linare, LMPS and Sundawana as the only sides to make the top four since 2006. It is a wonderful achievement for an ambitious project that is probably ahead of schedule.

Kick4Life are only three years in the Vodacom Premier League but they will start next season as one of the favourites for the title.

It's been a season of woe for Butha-Buthe Warriors...
Butha-Buthe Warriors relegated from Vodacom Premiership
The inevitable finally happened on Sunday as Butha-Buthe Warriors were relegated from the Vodacom Premier League after a 4-1 loss to Sundawana in the Butha-Buthe derby.

It feels as though Warriors have been relegated pretty much all season. They have been dreadful, in fact, historically so. Warriors are on course to achieve the lowest league points total in the past decade.

Lowest Premier League points totals since 2005/06
Season
Team
Games
Points
Average points per game
2006/07
Butha-Buthe Warriors
30
11
0.37
2008/09
Sekamaneng Young Stars
30
8
0.27
2009/10
Butha-Buthe Roses              
30
10
0.30
2010/11
Mabeoana
26
9
0.35
2013/14
Melele
26
12
0.46
2013/14
Joy
26
10
0.38
2014/15
Qoaling Highlanders
26
9
0.35
2016/17
Butha-Buthe Warriors
24
6
0.25
* Until 2009/10 there were 16 teams in the Premier League. Now there are 14

Quite disturbingly, Butha-Buthe Warriors appear twice on the list above.

If they do ever return to the top-flight they have to sort out the lack of organisation and direction that remained noticeable even after Sidwell Mothea took over as coach from Motlatsi Thibinyane in December.

In total, Warriors have lost 20 of their 24 league games this season and only have one win.

Sunday’s victory, by the way, was Sundawana’s first since hiring Spanish coach Antonio Flores in late February and it has revived Tse Bo Yellow’s top eight ambitions.
Matlama's Phafa Tšosane and Jane Thaba-Ntšo are in danger of missing out
on the top eight...
Top eight race will go down to the wire
That top eight race will go down to wire.

Only two points separate LMPS in sixth place and Sundawana in ninth. Even Linare, in tenth, still have an outside chance of cracking the top eight.

With the race so tight, the last two weeks of the season will be especially nervous for two giants – it is conceivable that either Matlama (eighth) or LDF (seventh) could finish outside of the top eight for the first time in their illustrious histories.

Matlama have won the most league titles with ten championships to their name, followed by LDF with eight. These are the most successful clubs in Lesotho. But, as things stand, LDF are seventh and Matlama are eighth.

LDF helped their cause with a solid 1-0 win over Liphakoe on Saturday in Quthing, their second league victory in a row. However, Matlama didn’t do themselves any favours as they put in another lethargic display to lose 2-0 to Lioli. Tse Putsoa are now winless in five games and have only picked up four points from the last available 24.

Ninth-placed Sundawana, who are level on points with Matlama and a point behind LDF, are watching closely and so too are Linare.

As fate would have it, Matlama and LDF will meet on the final day of the season. It could be a match to decide who gets into the top eight and who doesn’t. It could also write a new sad chapter in the proud histories of either Tse Putsoa or Sohle-Sohle.

Remaining games for top eight contenders:
LMPS
Sky Battalion (away), Butha-Buthe Warriors (home)
LDF
Kick4Life (home), Matlama (home)
Matlama
Rovers (away), LDF (away)
Sundawana
Bantu (home), LCS (away)
Linare
Liphakoe (home), Rovers (away)

Weekend Results:
Saturday
Matlama 0-2 Lioli
Liphakoe 0-1 LDF
Kick4Life 0-0 Rovers
Sunday
Sundawana 4-1 Butha-Buthe Warriors
Bantu 3-1 Sky Battalion
LCS 4-1 Likhopo
LMPS 0-0 Linare

Vodacom Premier League Standings


P
W
D
L
GF
GA
GD
Pts.
1
Bantu
24
17
5
2
44
12
+32
56
2
Lioli
24
17
3
4
46
11
+35
54
3
Kick4Life
24
13
6
5
42
24
+18
45
4
LCS
24
11
8
5
32
21
+11
41
5
Sky Battalion
24
11
5
8
32
25
+7
38
6
LMPS
24
7
12
5
21
18
+3
33
7
LDF
24
9
8
7
27
21
+6
32
8
Matlama
24
8
10
6
35
24
+11
31
9
Sundawana
24
7
10
7
24
24
0
31
10
Linare
24
6
8
10
33
35
-2
26
11
Liphakoe
24
6
7
11
20
30
-10
25
12
Rovers
24
3
7
14
20
47
-27
16
13
Likhopo
24
2
8
14
18
37
-19
14
R
Butha-Buthe Warriors
24
1
3
20
17
82
-65
6
·         Matlama docked 3 points
·         LDF docked 3 points and 3 goals