‘BIRDS’ FLY AWAY WITH INAUGURAL INGWENYAMA CUP

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His Majesty King Mswati III kicking the ball to officially start yesterday's Ingwenyama Cup finals. (Pic: Sabelo Gwebu)

Mbabane Swallows.………………………(1)2 Pupu 23rd, Njabulo 85th
Royal Leopard……………………………..(0)0

There are two certainties in life –death and taxes. Now you can add a third one; a Mbabane Swallows victory in a cup final.

Staged before a fervent crowd over 10 000, which included His Majesty King Mswati III, at the Somhlolo National Stadium on Sunday March 13, the all-conquering ‘Beautiful Birds’ made light work of Royal Leopard to be crowned inaugural champions of the SMVAF Ingwenyama Cup with a 2-0 win.

Swallows did not only annex the E1.1m prize money for the champions of the tournament but have remarkably completed a treble, with two more tournaments to play for.

The glamour side is still in contention for the SwaziBank Cup and the MTN League. Already in the nest are the Castle Premier Challenge Cup, the King’s Super Cup and now the Ingwenyama Cup.

This Swallows side has inscribed its name with iron ink in the history annals of the local game.

Just two strikes; one in each half, were enough to put a resisting Leopard to the sword. Swallows were clinical. Not at their ruthless best; yes, but they still got the job done against a Leopard side that also had a couple of chances to swing the game into their favour. It was not the best game both teams have played. Perhaps the tension affected the players as both teams simply failed to break into their usual rhythm.

Swallows started the brighter of the two. They upped the tempo from the onset and looked threatening and frightening as they surged forward. The strike force spearheaded by Sandile Hlatjwako, Banele ‘Pupu’ Sikhondze, Wonder ‘Samba Jive’ Nhleko and Felix ‘Fela’ Badenhorst continually found holes in the Leopard defence during the early exchanges.

‘Pupu’, who was taking defender Sizwe Khumalo on the left flank to the cleaners each time, smashed home the opener about halfway through the opening half after some delightful flick by Nhleko.

One would have thought the game would expose into a thriller after this strike. It did not. Instead, Swallows seemed content with sitting back and waited for Leopard to come at them.

Zweli ‘Mlilo’ Nxumalo, the Leopard’s engine room who was played off the park by the combative Pappy Kabamba Tshitshimbi, came close with a rather ambitious shot from range. It however tested Sandile ‘Nkomishi’ Ginindza between the Swallows goal posts, as he fisted the hard shot away.

First half substitute Barry Steenkamp almost scored with just his second touch after replacing DRC striker Richard Bazombwa. His shot came off the bar.

The second half saw a changed Leopard, as the police outfit seemed to finally come out of the shell. They however struggled to penetrate the Swallows no nonsense defence marshalled by Mandla Palma and Siphamandla Matsenjwa.

Tshitshimbi was doing all the dirty work. He effectively shut down Leopard’s creativity as Mxolisi Lukhele and Nxumalo struggled.

With five minutes left on lanky referee Thulani Sibandze, cometh the man. Up stepped Njabulo ‘D4D’ Ndlovu.

Like he has done so many times before for his beloved ‘Birds’, he unleashed a treacherous ground shot with his sweet left foot to rattle the net and effectively seal the win for the Mbabane giants.

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