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(At Somhlolo National Stadium)
Highlanders........ (0)1
Mokenkoane 80th
Matsapha............ (0)0

LOBAMBA – South Africa-born import Thabiso Mokenkoane came off the bench to earn Mbabane Highlanders their first-ever semi-final appearance in the Ingwenyama Cup.

After conspicuously missing in his side’s last outing, the return of the gifted forward was just what the doctor ordered for the capital city giants in their bid to shake off gusty Matsapha United with 1-0 win en route to their maiden appearance in the last four of Eswatini’s richest knockout tournament. Highlanders had failed to go beyond the quarter-finals in all three previous attempts and had exited in the Last 16 last year following a 0-1 shock loss to Milling Hotspurs.

Matsapha, who have been given a new lease of life under Zimbabwe-born Rodwell Dhlakama, did their homework and would have caused an upset if they were more clinical in front goal.

They further boasted the experience of midfielder Phinda ‘Majoro’ Ginindza, who has been recruited from Green Mamba.
The duo of Johnson Mensah and Richard Effah ensured Highlanders lived dangerously. However, it was Highlanders who had the best chance of the opening half after Sabelo ‘Sawa’ Gamedze forced goalkeeper Innocent Adja to stretch out his leg to keep out his audacious effort in the 18th minute.

Five minutes later, Matsapha’s Mensah opted to sky his effort from close range following good interplay in the 23rd minute.
Just after the half-hour mark, Sabelo ‘Sawa’ Gamedze’s effort was finger-tipped to safety to sum up a frustrating opening period for Saul Chamunika’s men.
The teams were level-pegging during the interval.

Highlanders started breathing on resumption of play, especially after the introduction of the duo of Mokenkoane and Sihle Ndaba who replaced Menzi Mamba and Menzi Sithole, respectively.

Mokenkoane proved he meant business when he tested the goalkeeper with a grass-cutter immediately after his introduction. However, the visitors never dropped their heads and Effah failed to capitalise on a defensive mix-up.

He guided his effort just wide after shaking off two defenders in the 79th minute.
A minute later, the hundreds of roaring home supporters who filled the left side of the VIP box were on their feet. Mokenkoane benefitted from a flawless interplay. He showed composure in the box before beating the goalkeeper with a low shot to send the spectators into a frenzy.

It proved to be the decisive punch as Matsapha were already out of steam. The latter will only have the E75 000 for reaching this stage as compensation. Focus shifts to cheating the axe as they are at the basement of the charts in the league.

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