/ 2 September 2007

Draw for Swallows not bad, but …

Moroka Swallows completed a 1-1 Premier Soccer League (PSL) draw against Santos at an almost deserted Athlone Stadium on Sunday afternoon — with coach Ian Gorowa not quite sure afterwards whether he was pleased or unhappy with the outcome.

”A draw in Cape Town is never a bad result for any visiting team,” said the Swallows coach, ”and it’s true we finished the game with 10 men and still held on to our unbeaten record. But I feel this is one game we had in the palm of our hands, and surrendering two points in the championship race can prove costly.”

The Birds missed an opportunity to occupy a place at the top of the log alongside Bloemfontein Celtic and Wits University, and instead share fifth place with Jomo Cosmos and Free State Stars.

Ironically, Swallows played some of their most pleasing and clinical soccer in the final 13 minutes following the sending-off of Mayinga for a second bookable offence and giving Santos a succession of uneasy moments in the closing stages.

But it was the Cape Town team who opened the score two minutes before half-time when the Swallows defence was caught napping and four defenders looked on flat-footed as an enterprising Eleazer Rodgers guided the ball into the roof of the net with a loping header.

Tsweu Mokoro equalised for Swallows in the 65th minute with a rasping, 20m shot only three minutes after coming on to the field as a substitute for the out-of-touch Evans Gwekwerere — and it was difficult to understand why he had not been included in the starting line-up in the first place.

Gorowa, in fact, started the game with a number of curious changes to a side that had made an impressive start to the PSL programme — prompting the view from one onlooker that the Swallows coach had no faith in the old dictum ”if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Meanwhile, the belated arrival on the field in the second half of Mokoro, Victor Twala and Shongwe Chalwe appeared to add considerably to the fluidity, precision and enterprise of Swallows’ play.

Striker Sandile ”Ak-47” Ndlovu, who was signed from Mamelodi Sundowns hours before the closure of the transfer deadline on Friday, made his debut for the Birds but mainly shot blanks and appeared to be in need of match practice before being substituted in the 78th minute.

And, as Gorowa philosophised afterwards, the draw was ”both a good and bad result” for the Birds.

Cosmos beat United

Despite three excellent goals, Jomo Cosmos’s 2-1 league win over SuperSport United at the Mehlareng Stadium in Tembisa on Sunday hardly resembled the beautiful game as soccer is known worldwide.

Davis Mwape opened the scoring after a defence-splitting pass from Lucky Mhlathe in the 53rd minute. SuperSport substitute Elias Pelembe showed great composure and control in the box when he equalised in the 65th minute, but seven minutes later Lethola Mofokeng won the game for Cosmos with a first-time shot in the box.

The game started at an even pace with both sides taking turns to go forward, but neither were imaginative and the ball just went back and forth. Nevertheless, it did not take long for Cosmos to resort to their forceful style of play.

South Africa under-23 international Dane Klate was harshly stomped on — in the groin — by Mhlathe, but the referee did not show the Cosmos offender a yellow card. However, four yellow cards and one red were flashed during this tepid yet ill-tempered match.

The first shot on goal came from a well-taken free kick by Dikgang Mabalane. Unfortunately for the Cosmos winger, United goalkeeper Denis Onyango palmed his effort out for a corner.

United won a penalty in the 33rd minute that South African international striker Katlego Mphela blasted against a diving Avril Phali. The ball bounced off the goalkeeper and against the crossbar as a rueful Mphela watched it being cleared.

Sydney Plaatjies, replaced by coach Jomo Sono after 30 minutes, earned a yellow card for his fouls together with captain Valery Nahayo. United’s Mphela got a caution for his team. SuperSport went into the break knowing they should have been a goal up.

Nine minutes after the restart, a well-weighted pass by Mhlathe found Mwape between United skipper Ricardo Katza and defender Simphiwe Mkhonza. The striker set himself up with one touch and, with both defenders trying to catch up, fired the ball past Onyonga.

Spurred on by the deficit, SuperSport pressed the hosts back in their own half. Ezenkosi skipper Nahayo marshalled his defence well and gave United little chance of scoring. The United supporters urged Gavin Hunt to make a change and the coach obliged, replacing the ineffective Denis Masina with Pelembe.

The substitute was immediately in action swinging in a corner, but Phali stood his ground and denied United any chances.

In the 65th minute, Phali erred when he palmed a cross in the path of Klate whose shot-cum-cross landed at the feet of Pelembe. The substitute — back to goal — showed great skill when he coolly flicked the ball past an onrushing defender and shot in to the back of the net.

With the score tied at 1-1 and less than 25 minutes to go, it seemed a draw would be a fair result, but Cosmos were intent on getting three points after two previous draws.

Mofokeng sealed the win for the Ezenkosi after a clever through-ball from midfielder Reneilwe Letsholonyane. The pass caught the United defence flat and Mofokeng needed only one touch to blast home the winner.

With seven minutes to go till the end, Mofokeng was set free on goal but a desperate and stupid pull on his shirt by Senzo Ndlovu brought the striker down. Ndlovu was duly sent off.

The loss leaves Hunt with two losses and a win, and although it is early days in the league, SuperSport bosses will surely apply some pressure in order not fall further behind on the 16-team league table. SuperSport are 13th and Cosmos jump to sixth place.

Bloem Celtic, Stars draw

In a derby match played to a capacity crowd, Bloemfontein Celtic and Free State Stars drew 1-1 draw in their Castle Premiership game in Bloemfontein on Sunday. Both teams failed to score in the first half, but the game was played at a hectic pace with goalkeepers on both sides having to work overtime.

The pace of the game was maintained in the second half with Celtic attacking at every opportunity. In the 56th minute, Stars’ left-footer Sofiso Vilakazi broke the deadlock when he scored with a long shot from outside the goal area.

A few clever substitutions by Celtic had the required effect in the 64th minute when Malawian international John Maduka showed his team how to score with a well-taken header, beating the keeper hands down. Celtic thereafter attacked with everything they had, but could not break the deadlock.

Ajax beat Benoni Premier

Ajax Cape Town came back from behind to beat Benoni Premier United 2-2 in a Castle Premiership game played before a poor crowd in Durban on Sunday. Benoni led 1-0 at half-time.

The game was evenly balanced in the beginning with the only real scoring chance going to Benoni’s Bernard Phaka in the 30th minute, but his shot went over the bar. Soon after, Phaka found the net to put his side 1-0 up.

In the 60th minute, Ajax brought on Terror Fanteni and it took him only seven minutes to level the score. A reckless tackle inside the box left the referee no option but to award a penalty, and Fanteni again made no mistake. — Sapa