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LOBAMBA – They are still breathing.

Big guns, mainly Manzini Wanderers and Mbabane Swallows, who were involved in yesterday’s colourful grand opening of the EswatiniBank Cup solo inje edition, shook off minnows to earn Last 16 spots. They join fellow heavyweights Mbabane Highlanders, who are the biggest winners of the opening round following a cruising 9-0 win over listless National First Division outfit City Warriors. Wanderers did not need to engage the second gear to brush aside second-tier football side Mbabane City, who had brought a knife to a gunfight. Four first half goals and a late screamer by the impressive Njabulo Magongo ensured Wanderers remained in pursuit of their first-ever EswatiniBank Cup title in 16 attempts.

As Wanderers celebrated their third straight victory in all competitions, it was a welcome change for their throngs of spectators who endured a terrible start in the league. The maroon and white outfit’s loyalists remained on the stands ready to throw a party long after the final whistle had gone. They had reasons to be merry, as they did not only saw their favourite side easily getting their name into the hat ahead of the Last 16 draw, but left the venue with renewed hope. The side, under the tutelage of strategist Thabo ‘Koki’ Vilakati, are slowly picking up the pieces and it is so far so good in their bid to reclaim their rightful place in Eswatini football.

For Swallows, it was a positive response to their recent slump following back-to-back defeats against Manzini Wanderers and Young Buffaloes before the stop at Somhlolo National Stadium, where a roaring strong crowd of about 5 000 fans was in attendance. However, the capital city giants needed both individual brilliance and experience to soar over the daring Masundwini Royal Swallows with a 4-1 score line. The latter were back to mingle with the ‘big boys’ after being relegated in the early 90s. Royal Swallows are proving to be a big fish in a small pond in the regions, with a flawless blending of experience and youth in their squad.

They have ‘recycled’ 39-year-old former Young Buffaloes defender Goodman Thwala, and legendary striker Mbuso Gina, who is a year older. However, the gangling forward, who played with a heavily-bandaged knee, did little impact on the day. 

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