Wednesday 2019-05-22

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ROYAL LEOPARD’S TITLE HOPES HUGELY DENTED

By Mthunzi Maziya | 2019-05-15

Leopard…….………................... (1)1

Matsapha Utd.………................. (0)1

SOCCER – ROYAL Leopard’s hopes of winning the MTN League title suffered a huge blow at the Somhlolo National Stadium yesterday when they were held to a 1-1 draw by Matsapha United.

The point gained by Rodwell Dhlakama’s charges was crucial as it meant they survived relegation ahead of their last game against Manzini wanderers.

As for Leopard, they are now tied on 55 points with Green Mamba FC, who have a far superior goal difference. Both teams have massive final matches this weekend as Leopard host rivals Young Buffaloes, while Green Mamba visit Mbabane Highlanders.

Leopard would be crushed by the fact that they let it slip right at the death when a cross by Mancoba Zwane fell onto the path of dangerous attacking mid-fielder, Emmanuel Nsiah to score the equaliser for Matsapha in the 84th minute.

It was the sort of sucker puncher that had dreams fading with it, more so because Leopard had camped inside the opposition’s half for much of the first half, with Zweli ‘Mlilo’ Nxumalo crossing the ball for Charles Edoa-Nga in the 11th minute, who headed over the cross bar. Matsapha defended well in the early stages but were to crack in the 34th minute when defender Thami Zulu let the ball bounce inside his own box to Edoa-Nga’s benefit as he headed the ball beyond the advancing Innocent Adja to give Leopard the lead.

Barry Steenkamp released a curling shot from the edge of the box a minute later, but Adja was on hand to thwart the effort. There were little more chances afterwards as the referee Letticia Vienna blew to send the teams into the tunnels.

At the restart, ‘Mlilo’ sent a dummy to Matsapha’s Neliswa Nkambule and delivered a good cross to Fanelo, who ballooned the ball over the cross bar.

Matsapha almost equalised in the 51st minute when Richard Yartel’s long range drive almost floated into the top corner but missed narrowly.

Yartel came close yet again in the 61st minute when his shot from a tight angle was pushed wide by Phephisani Msibi. The threat from Matsapha was there all game, and when Leopard’s keeper, Phephisani dropped the ball after having gained control of it and punched it again under pressure from Matsapha’s Sibongiseni Ndzimandze without being penalised, Matsapha rightly screamed injustice. This was in the 78th minute  Fortunately, Matsapha were to have the last laugh as Nsiah easily budged Fanelo off the ball with six minutes remaining to score a priceless goal for his team and inflict a massive damper to Leopard’s title chances.

TEAMS

Leopard – Phephisani, Barry (Mcolisi Lukhele), Mzoro, Sikhumbuzo Magagula, Machawe, Melusi Dlamini, Sushi, Junior, Edoa-Nga, Fanelo (Bongane Ndzimandze), Zweli Nxumalo (Sifiso Matse).

Matsapha Utd – Innocent Adja, Thami, Clement (Mcebo Sihlongonyane), Mancoba Zwane, Neliswa Nkambule, Mzwandile Mabelesa, Blandja, Nhlanhla Mahlalela, Nsiah, Yartel, Sibongiseni Ndzimandze.

Referee – Letticia Vienna

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