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‘BIRDS’ VS ’DOWNS IN QUARTERS

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 MBABANE – The Ingwenyama Cup quarter-final draw has produced familiar match-ups.

Holders and three-time champions Mbabane Swallows will continue their title defence against ‘familiar ghosts’ in Manzini Sundowns, in a repeat of the first two editions’ semi-finals, which the capital city giants won by 5-2 and 2-1, respectively.


Royal Leopard, who were the first team  to come off the pot during yesterday’s draw at the sponsor Sincephetelo Motor Vehicle Accident Fund’s head office in Mbabane, will also meet familiar opposition in Young  Buffaloes.


The sides are meeting in the tournament for a third straight year. They had fair share of wins in previous meetings, with Buffaloes winning by 1-0 in the second edition’s Last 16 match-up. 
Leopard, who were the runners-up in the last instalment, beat Buffaloes by the same scoreline in the semi-finals.

In another interesting match-up, improving Matsapha United will be looking to deny Mbabane Highlanders their first-ever appearance in the semi-finals of the prestigious tournament. Highlanders needed to grind out a 1-0 on the road in their league fixture against Matsapha this season.


 The quarter-final line-up is completed by National First Division best finishers Tinyosi and Pigg’s Peak-based Premier League side Malanti Chiefs.
For Swallows and Sundowns, it is ‘round three’ this season, as they are fresh from a feisty league showdown, which ended 2-1 in favour of the red and white ensemble. The first round meeting saw Sundowns recording a 1-0 win.


The games, according to a fixture released by the management committee after the draw, will be played at Somhlolo National Stadium between this coming Saturday and Sunday from 2pm.  The first two quarter-finals will feature the quartet of Malanti, Tinyosi, Leopard and Buffaloes.


The pairings were made before guests led by tournament Committees Chairman Prince Hlangabeza, who strongly warned against violent conduct at stadia. SMVAF CEO Helmon Vilakati and Premier League of Eswatini (PLE) Chairman Peter ‘Touch’ Magagula could also not miss out.


While the mood was relaxed leading up to the draw, team representatives started having ants in their pants when it was time for the pairings. Like in previous draws, teams were randomly drawn from the pot. The first four teams to come out were Leopard, Sundowns, Malanti and Highlanders. The next teams to come out of the pot were the opponents and it took the crashing of the ball to know Leopard’s opponents, as the small ‘orb’ containing Buffaloes’ name did not open after fruitless attempts.
War
 A war of words expectedly ensured after the draw, with the teams’ public relations officers confident of going all the way. “It’s a fair draw and we look beyond Buffaloes in our bid to achieve our ultimate goal,” said Leopard PRO Frank Hurube.


Malanti and Tinyosi, on the other hand, were notably represented by ladies in Lungile Dube and Thobile Dlamini, respectively. The latter welcomed the draw while Dube felt her team needed to swim with the sharks in chase of a spot in the semi-finals.

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