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BULL-ISH ’LANDERS SKIN LEOPARD

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(At Somhlolo National Stadium)

Leopard..................................... (1)1
Phumlani Shabangu 4th
Highlanders.............................. (1)2
‘Chocco’ 32nd, Menzi 66th

LOBAMBA – A second half stunner by Mbabane Highlanders grafter Menzi Sithole helped his stuttering side to return to winning ways at the expense of an unlucky Royal Leopard.


A first half  strike by skipper, Xolani ‘Chocco’ Sibandze, and a 32nd minute grass-cutter by Sithole, who ironically joined the side from Leopard, were all the ‘Black Bull’ needed to end their three-game win-less streak under new South Africa-born gaffer Mlungisi ‘Professor’ Ngubane. The hundreds of visiting supporters, who roared in celebrations on the left side of the VIP box at Somhlolo National Stadium - crooning happy songs, were a picture of relief as the capital city celebrated a rare double against their foes. ‘Chocco’s lone strike in the reverse fixture separated the two sides.


Leopard, who had punished a jittery Highlanders defence inside five minutes through young forward, Phumlani Shabangu, had themselves to blame as they created enough chances to put the game to bed.
Shabangu tip-toed a defence freezing cross from the right wing by full-back Sanele Mngomezulu to score the opener.


The away side had struggled during the opening exchanges but eventually hit the ground running after the half-hour mark as they marched closer to the top four with 22 points. They have moved three places up to occupy the seventh spot and are only behind Leopard on goal difference. It was ‘Chocco’ who restored parity as he slotted in a Frank Antwi cross after a swift attack in the 32nd minute.


Both sides had only the single goal to show for the efforts in the opening half, which was punctuated with stoppages. Highlanders were forced to sacrifice left-back Peter Dlamini before the interval after he suffered a suspected hamstring injury.
While Leopard mainly threatened through Barry Steenkamp on resumption of play, Highlanders were also adventurous, with Charles Musonda’s deceptive cross parried to safety by goalkeeper, Phephisani Msibi, in the 59th minute. Seven minutes later, the Highlanders faithful were on their feet as Sithole unleashed a stunner from outside the box after the blue and white ensemble’s defence stuttered in clearing their lines.

However, Barry kept probing and saw his effort after a swift attack cleared from the goal line by Simphiwe Manana two minutes from time. The attempt summed up a frustrating outing for the home side, who are now 16 points shy of the top spot after the same number of matches. Highlanders, on the other hand, left the venue with renewed hope in the bid to keep the chasing pack in sight.

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