Ten-man Swallows fight off Maritzburg

A 10-man Moroka Swallows beat Maritzburg United 3-2 in a Castle Premiership match played at the Germiston Stadium on a chilly Saturday afternoon. Swallows went into the half-time break 3-1 up against the relegation-bound Maritzburg.

Rudy Isaaks opened the scoring in the 12th minute when Cecil Oerson’s corner kick was flicked on from the near post to find the defender unmarked at the far post to make an easy tap in. Two minutes later, Maritzburg goalkeeper Aime Kitenge brought Songwe Chalwe down in the box and referee Ace Ngobo pointed to the spot.

Chalwe took on the responsibility to increase the Birds’ tally and the Zambian made no mistake as the Birds fans celebrated wildly.

The hosts’ confidence increased as they upped their attacks on the beleaguered Maritzburg outfit.

Swallows winger Japhet Zwane got on to the score sheet with a powerful shot in the 28th minute. The former South Africa international beat Ivan Winstanley to the ball after the former Wits defender failed to clear it the first time, and Zwane’s low shot had too much pace for Kitenge — much to the delight of the ecstatic home fans.

Nevertheless, Maritzburg got back in the game in the 35th minute when Onismor Bhasera scored from a free kick. Lovers Mohlala brought down Maritzburg right-winger Luntu Mazana on the edge of the box.

Bhasera curled the ball around a two-man wall and beat Nigeria international goalkeeper Greg Etafia at his near post.

Suddenly the visitors started pressing forward with the urgency of a team wanting to avoid the dreaded drop to the Mvela Golden League.

Sandile Ndlovu, who came on for Graham King in the 25th minute, forced a good save out of Etafia in the 38th minute, and with less than three minutes to go, the burly striker again got goalside of George Hummel and chipped Etafia. Unfortunately for Ndlovu, his effort did not have enough pace and Mohlala cleared it off the line.

Hummel was sent off in extra time after a scuffle between players in the Maritzburg goal area.

With only 10 men to play with in the second half, the orders were clear from coach Gavin Hunt as the hosts stayed back in their half of the field and Maritzburg piled on the pressure.

Tshweu Mokoro worked his socks off for the 60-year-old Soweto club as Swallows tried to catch Maritzburg on the counter-attack. However, striker Henrico Botes failed to test Kitenge with the chances Mokoro and Mark Haskins created for him.

Maritzburg kept on pressing as time ran out and finally got a goal with nine minutes to go. The Swallows defence, marshalled by Bevan Fransman and Isaacs, seemed to fall asleep as Mazana stole in between the defenders and their ‘keeper and headed in to an empty net, silencing the buoyant home fans.

Time was not on Maritzburg’s side as Swallows defended their slender lead with authority after their mishap.

The team of choice, as is Maritzburg’s slogan, could only mean one thing as the rookies are most certainly the first choice to be relegated from the top flight. — Sapa

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