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LETHAL ‘BIRDS’ PUT AZAM TO THE SWORD

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Swallows......................... (1) 3
Sikhali 40th, Wonder 68th, Sandile 76th
Azam F.C......................... (0) 0

LOBAMBA – Whoever said the Van Damme of Swazi football is dead should think again.


Mbabane Swallows did not just put Azam F.C to the sword in the second leg of the CAF Confederations Cup, but they improved their personal best in the competition.
The ‘Birds’ have joined the likes of Mbabane Highlanders and Royal Leopard to have reached this far in continental competition. They are through to the play-off stage of the second tier of CAF club tournaments, and they are waiting to be drawn against some of the teams who have crashed out of the lucrative CAF Champions League.


The 3-1 aggregate scoreline cemented their reputation as a force to be reckoned with in African football competition. The current generation of players captained by Tony ‘TT’ Tsabedze, Wonder ‘Samba Jive’ Nhleko and Sabelo ‘Sikhali’ Ndzinisa is surely ready to wrestle the best in the continent. They were a bundle of nerves in the first 15 minutes of the game, but when they finally shrugged off that fear factor, they regained their ruthlessness. ‘Sikhali’ broke his CAF goal drought with a fine finish five minutes before the break. He was redeeming himself after fluffing the best chance of the half, with a meek shot at three yards from a Tony floated cross.


When he scored the opener, his earlier miss was gladly forgiven by everyone at the stadium including Deputy Prime Minister Paul Dlamini, who was flanked by Prince Masitsela, Minister of Sports, Culture and Youth Affairs David ‘Cruiser’ Ngcamphalala and a couple of officials from the recently ended SADC Summit.


Njabulo Ndlovu who held the fort well in central midfield in the absence of the combative Pappy Tshitshimbi provided the assist, sliding a pass on the path of Sikhali whose clever turn inside the box, proved deceptive to the very good Azam defence marshalled by Zambian Bruce Kangwa. The striker then showed composure when he toe-poked the ball past the hands of Ashi Manula in Azam goals. It was the perfect ice-breaker Swallows needed to take to the recess.
Wonder Nhleko deserves all the accolades for his stunning second goal, six minutes after the hour mark. A goal that can compete with the best in goals of the competition saw Tony, Njabulo and Mkhweli combining on the left flank, before the latter picked Banele ‘Pupu’ Sikhondze at 12 yards with a cross.


The latter turned and rolled a pass on Wonder’s path who responded with a scorcher that rested at the far corner. It was a goal worth its weight in gold. A typical match winner and even when Sandile Hlatshwako scored 10 minutes later to complete the rout, his goal could not take the gloss of ‘Samba Jive’s blockbuster.

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