Lioli are the new Econet Soccer Spectacular (ESS) Champions after thumping their long-time rivals Bantu in the tournament final that was held at the Setsoto Stadium on Sunday.
However, ‘Tse Nala’ as they are affectionately known, had a tough task going past Bantu, with the match having to be decided on penalties, and Lioli, the eventual winners 4-2 after the affair ended with a 1-all draw in 90 minutes.
The rivalry between the two teams came less than a month after they last met in the 2019 Alliance Winter Challenge (AWC) in August.
In that match Bantu saw off Lioli by 1-0 to claim the AWC for the first time. This time around the tables were turned as Lioli were out for revenge.
The contest for the first position came after the teams’ respective wins in the tournament’s semi-finals on Saturday. Bantu saw off Linare by a 3-1 score margin while Lioli progressed to the final after defeating Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) 3-0.
Both teams were careful to lose possession in the early stages of the first half.
In the 33rd minute Bantu were the ones to draw first blood through Baba Zwane, but, they soon failed to protect their lead and convert some of their clear cut chances which could have turned the end results in their favour.
Tumelo Makha pulled one back for Lioli in the 79th minute to bring back his team in the game. The two teams failed to change the score line in the last ten minutes and that meant going straight to penalties.
The newly appointed Bantu FC coach Bob Mafoso who faced his test at the helm of ‘A Mats’o Matebele’, expressed his excitement with how his players managed to deal with the critical phases, of the game but also mentioned his disappointment with their loss of concentration in the last minutes of the game.
“Our one mistake that cost us was obviously the lapse of concentration in the dying minutes of the game,” said Mafoso.
He confirmed they missed the crucial chances that could have turned things in their favour. “In football if it is not your day anything that could go wrong goes wrong and you get frustrated but there is nothing you can do about it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lioli head coach, Thabile Secker, said this was a pre-season tournament and whether he won it or not, would still be good for him, as his main focus at this point is to build a competitive team for the upcoming league season.
Secker has won the ESS for the second time in two consecutive years with different teams, after he won it last year with Matlama.
He also made a plea to the Lioli family to be patient, stating that he is going to need more time to build the team.
“There were a couple of things that were not going right in the team before, and for that, I am still working on those,” Secker said.
On the other hand LDF claimed third position, forcing Linare to settle for forth after. Linare suffered a 5-4 loss to LDF after both teams had to be separated on penalties due to failing to break the deadlock.
Matlama were the reigning champions but failed to gather enough votes to take them in the top four competing teams for this year’s edition.
Lioli took home M100 000 while Bantu received M50 000, LDF and Linare receiving M50 000 each.
LDF were the most voted team this year with 100 124 votes, followed by Bantu with 79 553. Linare and Lioli received 75 680 and 72 989 votes respectively.
All teams including other Econet Premier League teams that did not qualify for the tournament received 50 percent of their total votes.