/ 13 April 2008

Swallows deal crushing blow to Ajax

The unpredictable Moroka Swallows were flying high after delivering a crushing blow to Ajax Cape Town’s Premier Soccer League (PSL) title aspirations with a come-from-behind 2-1 victory at the Germiston Stadium on Sunday evening.

In other matches, Sundowns beat Chiefs 1-0; Celtic and Leopards drew 2-2; and AmaZulu and Platinum Stars drew 0-0.

Emphasising the observation of one supporter in the small crowd that ”you never know which way the Birds will fly”, Swallows secured a success that elevated them back into the important top eight positions in the log despite finishing the game with 10 men.

Central defender and former Malawian captain Patrick Mabedi, considered a ”gentleman of the PSL”, was provoked into retaliating with his elbow and found himself red-carded in the process.

Swallows, having lost ground recently in the battle to secure a place in next season’s top eight competition and involved in several controversial issues, looked as though they were heading for more frustration when Nathan Paulse headed Ajax into a 1-0 lead in the 21st minute.

But the Birds were on level terms via a scrambled, close-range goal from Sandile Ndlovu within five minutes, and a headed goal from Zimbabwean Evans Gwekwerere midway through the second half turned the game the Swallows’ way.

In the process, Ajax now find themselves four points behind log leaders SuperSport United, with the fact that they have a game in hand only minimising their pain.

And no one could have savoured Swallows’ success with more satisfaction than coach Ian Gorowa, the Ajax assistant coach last season, who has found himself embroiled in more than one controversy of late and needed the kind of morale booster that has now come his way.

Sundowns beat Chiefs

Meanwhile, too late to retain their PSL title for a third successive season, Mamelodi Sundowns belatedly took on the guise of champions as they outplayed and outsmarted Kaizer Chiefs while gaining an impressive 1-0 victory at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Sunday afternoon.

A 21st-minute lobbed goal from Josta Dladla that caught Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune in no-man’s-land was sufficient to give the Brazilians a win that significantly improved their prospects of qualifying for next season’s top eight competition, while placing Chiefs’ appearance in the tournament in jeopardy.

On a balmy autumn afternoon before a sun-scorched, 28 000-strong crowd, Sundowns played with the kind of serene arrogance that has become their trademark but has largely been absent this season, and they rubbed salt into the wounds of the team they had eliminated from the Nedbank Cup only two weeks ago.

Chiefs, for their part, never appeared to get into their stride in a game of soccer chess and invariably found themselves in a checkmate situation.

Indeed, Sundowns should have increased their lead before the interval when Surprise Moriri tried to lob the ball over the head of Khune as Dladla did five minutes earlier, with the Chiefs goalkeeper rising and deflecting the ball to safety.

The Brazilians also had two inviting opportunities of scoring soon after half-time, with Moriri first heading narrowly wide of the post and Uruguayan striker Bryan Aldave’s headed attempt thwarted by Khune’s spectacular save.

Shaun Bartlett was too slow in capitalising on a rare opportunity to equalise in the 60th minute and while Chiefs coach Muhsin Ertugral made three second-half substitutions in a bid to salvage a point, it was surprising the ineffective former Bafana striker was not one of the players taken off.

Khune, who performed with the anxiety of a cat on a hot tin roof, was in action again when Chilean midfielder Acuna beat him to a loose ball — and again when he was saving impressively from Aldave.

With Sundowns funnelling meticulously back into defence in the closing minute, it was always going to remain a case of ”checkmate” for Chiefs.

Celtic, Leopards draw

Bloemfontein Celtic and Black Leopards drew 2-2 in an exciting PSL match at the Seisa Ramabodu Stadium in Bloemfontein on Sunday. Celtic skipper John Maduka scored in the 22nd minute and Mulondo Sikhwivhilu equalised for the visitors on the stroke of half-time.

Leopards thought they were finally winners when Kaizer Montsi scored in extra time, but barely a minute later Moses Spandeel earned a point for his team when he netted with virtually the last kick of the match.

Both teams remain in the same place on the log despite the point. Celtic are in 13th place with 27 points and Leopards are rock-bottom with a measly 16.

The last time Celtic won a game was on February 24 when they just managed to beat AmaZulu 3-2 at the same venue. Leopards have to look back as far as December 5 to check for their last victory when they got the better of Mamelodi Sundowns.

This year Leopards have not won a game but lost eight. Celtic are slightly better and have only lost seven matches this year. With only five games to go, Leopards are a sure bet for relegation.

AmaZulu, Stars draw

AmaZulu and Platinum Stars drew 0-0 in a dull game played before a capacity crowd at Princess Magogo Stadium in Durban on Sunday afternoon.

Stars goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands made only two saves throughout the game. His first came in the 79th minute when the home side were awarded a free kick taken by John ”Shoes” Moshoeu, who shot directly to the goalkeeper.

The second chance came in the 85th minute when Mpho Maleka’s shot hit the upright before landing into Sandilands’s hands. — Sapa