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‘Birds’ beat Green Mamba, throw title race wide open

By Lwazi Dlamini
(At KaLanga Technical Centre)

Green Mamba………………(0) 1,
Mxolisi Mkhontfo 65th
Mbabane Swallows………(0) 2,
Sandile Hlatshwako 51st, Banele Dlamini Own Goal 66th

SITEKI – Mbabane Swallows lived to see another day in the enthralling league title race after beating log leaders, Green Mamba 2-1 on Saturday afternoon in a pulsating clash watched by over 1 000 fans at the modest venue.

The win, which leaves the ‘Birds’ five points behind Green Mamba, threw the league title race wide open with five games remaining.

With Young Buffaloes beating Manzini Wanderers 3-1 at the Prince of Wales, Green Mamba’s lead has been cut to two points by the army side who will be facing the ‘Correctional Services side in the next two weeks in what will be a top-of-the-table clash.

Read More: Green Mamba blow Highlanders title hopes sky high

Swallows achieved a double over the ‘Correctional Services’ side having beaten them 2-0 in the first round played at Somhlolo National Stadium on October 30, 2022. It was lanky striker, Sandile Hlatshwako who flicked the ball home with a glancing header after a long ball from Kwakhe Tfwala in the 51st minute before the Ernest Mavuso-coached side equalized with a contender for a goal of the season award, had there been any, when talented midfielder Mxolisi Mkhontfo hammered home a stupendous free kick five minutes after the hour-mark.

It was a pulsating game between Green Mamba and Mbabane Swallows
It was a pulsating game between Green Mamba and Mbabane Swallows

In a dramatic two minutes, Green Mamba defender Banele Dlamini stabbed the ball into his net, while trying to clear a cross from second-half substitute, Sizolwethu Shabalala in the 66th minute. It was a sucker punch for the title-chasing Green Mamba who had gone twelve games without a defeat with the last loss to Denver Sundowns on December 10, 2022, at Mavuso Sports Centre.

In a fiercely contested clash, Green Mamba started as the most inventive side, probing Swallows with incisive moves and could have taken the lead in the 23rd minute when former Swallows midfielder Njabulo ‘D4D’ Ndlovu saw his header go over the bar unmarked inside the box.

Read More: History repeats itself as Swallows beat Wanderers on VG’s Commemoration

Leading goal-scorer, Felix Badenhorst could not believe his eyes in the 50th minute when Green Mamba goalkeeper Xolani Gama pulled off a point-blank save from two yards. Then a minute later, Hlatshwako headed in the opening goal.

It was a pulsating game between Green Mamba and Mbabane Swallows
It was a pulsating game between Green Mamba and Mbabane Swallows

Green Mamba never dropped their heads and were duly rewarded when the industrious Mkhontfo scored a wonderful free kick awarded outside the box after Swallows defender Kingu Pemba handled a Mxolisi ‘Xavi’ Mkhontfo cross.

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But barely a minute Swallows stormed ahead when Shabalala’s cross from the left flank was deflected into his net by Dlamini. Green Mamba battalions of fans watched in agony when Khethokuhle Mkhontfo woefully missed from two yards out after Sabelo ‘Sikhali’ Ndzinisa had drawn goalkeeper, Sandanezwe Mathabela and laid the ball on his path.

When it looked easier to score than to miss, Mkhontfo fired wide much to the chagrin of the Green Mamba fans. Swallows fans went back home a happy bunch as the red and white side remain in the title race with five games remaining.

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