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LOBAMBA – A sunrise of beaming smiles and euphoric voices from the honey-throated Manzini Wanderers’ joyful fans enveloped the iconic Somhlolo National Stadium, as the ‘Weslians’ castrated a comatose Mbabane Highlanders 2-0 in emphatic fashion here yesterday.

It was the kind of torture on the ‘Black Bull’ that would have called for the intervention of the Animal Welfare Society! As the icing on top of cake goes, this was sweetest imaginable for one of the most supported teams in the country. It was a victory, no doubt celebrated until the early hours of this morning countrywide, that set up one of the unlikeliest Cup final ever against defending champions Young Buffaloes here on April 29. The army side, reigning champions of the country’s most exciting soccer extravaganza in its 15th edition, stormed into the final after beating Green Mamba 7-5 on penalties at King Sobhuza II Memorial Stadium on Saturday. The Minister of Sports, Culture and Youth Affairs, David ‘Cruiser’ Ngcamphalala, Minister of Public Service Owen Nxumalo, SwaziBank Managing Director Zakhele Lukhele, Prince Majaha, National Football Association of Swaziland (NFAS) president Adam ‘Bomber’ Mthethwa, joined more than 8 000 fans at the country’s soccer Mecca to be witnesses to a game that lived up to its pre-match billing as the ‘Cup final before the final,’ in every sense of the word.

Besides attracting one of the biggest crowd for a single fixture this season, the game literally started one hour before kickoff in the ‘battle of the dressing rooms,’ where blows were exchanged between the two club marshals, forcing the intervention of police officers to bring peace and order. Wanderers, who had won the toss of the coin to choose a dressing room, went on to seize control of the proceedings on the pitch too. For entertainment value, it was worth its weight in gold and for good measure, the deserving team ran out worthy winners too, in coach Nyanga ‘Crooks’ Hlophe’s brave battalions who had adrenalin running through their veins and played as if they believed anything was achievable.
From the moment the lavishly talented Congolese crafty midfielder, Mike Dombo, opened the scoring account for the hub giants with a cool-as-you-like deft finish in the 24th minute, Highlanders seemed to be a dishevelled bunch of bodies dishing out insipid display which left coach, Mlungisi ‘Professor’ Ngubane mightily miffed in the dug-out.

The mercurial ‘man of the match’, Dombo was an island of composure when he finished off the Kola Aladeon flick-on and those in black and white on the grandstand were quieter than most mortuaries around the country. You could have heard a pin drop in the Highlanders grand-stand. The blood levels of the Highlanders fans must have shot up 10 minutes before the end when the hard working Wanderers Nigerian striker, Kola, who worked his socks off, crowned a masterly display for ‘Liweseli’ with a clinical finish, burying a lacerating Ali Matse gift-wrapped cross, which would have defied all the rules of geometry, into the near post of Highlanders goalkeeper, Sidumo Vilakati’s post. It set off the kind of celebrations this iconic venue has not seen in a long, long time.

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