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BIG BEND – Illovo are back in the top flight of Eswatini football 15 years after they were relegated in the 2007/08 season.

They defeated champions and back in the elite league again Rangers 2-0 yesterday, but the latter had won the league three weeks ago before losing their last two games. This was a promotion decider for Illovo who were two points ahead of third-placed Ezulwini United, who drew 2-2 with Ludzeludze Killers and failed in their bid to regain promotion in just one season since their relegation. Goals from Gcina Matsebula and Sibonakaliso Dlamini ensured that they cemented their second spot, which saw them earn the E80 000 National First Division (NFD) League runners-up prize. United will pocket E50 000 for their effort.

Back to the game, amid the result, Rangers were officially crowned champions yesterday and were presented with the trophy and E180 000 replica cheque. Like the walls of Jericho, Hlatikhulu Tycoons, All Nations, Kappa Kappa and Shooting Stars have been relegated. Rookies Louis XIV survived the axe on their head-to-head advantage over Tycoons as they are tied on 32 points.

However, it was not a stroll in the park for Illovo against Rangers. If anything, Rangers deserved better in the first half in what was an open game with chances for both teams. It was Illovo who went to the break leading 1-0 through a goal by Matsebula in the half-hour mark. Blunt shooting cost Rangers who enjoyed the lion’s share of the ball before they were again punished in the last minute of the match with another goal, Sibonakaliso Dlamini scored right at the death and 2-0 it was. The joy was written all over the Illovo technical bench’s face and a handful of travelling supporters who cannot wait to see their team in the elite front after playing in the regions and first division for so long. The likes of Sandile ‘Maswidi’ Mhlanga and Matsebula got the chances to bury the match for their side but in vain, thanks to good goalkeeping by Simo Ndzinisa.