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Black Leopards (0) 2
Nkhatha 86, 90+2
Moroka Swallows (0) 5
Nergadze 57, Nomvethe 71, 79, Maleka 82, 85
Moroka Swallows surged into position last night as the main threat to Orlando Pirates’ Absa Premiership crown, a scintillating second half display lifting them to within two points of the Buccaneers at the top of the table.
It took Gordon Igesund’s side a while to break through an initially stubborn Leopards rearguard, Vladislav Heric’s outfit scrapping away in a fierce relegation battle.
But once Giorgi Nergadze’s header had given Swallows the lead, the floodgates opened. A double from Siyabonga Nomvethe, his 17th and 18th league goals of the season, and another brace from substitute Mpho Maleka appeared to give Swallows a serious jump in goal difference on Pirates, in a league that could yet come down to that divider.
In the end, two late Kingston Nkhatha goals for Leopards cut that goal difference advantage to just one, but Swallows could hardly be too downhearted on a night that must give their fans serious hope of an Absa Premiership crown.
For Leopards, huge games against Bidvest Wits and Jomo Cosmos are on the horizon, and it must have been disheartening for their fans to see a very public spat between technical director Sunday Chidzambwa and coach Heric.
Swallows were the first to mount a threat at goal, Lerato Chabangu’s free-kick tipped away fairly comfortably by Posnett Omony in the Leopards goal.
David Mathebula then found Bennet Chenene in the area, but his shot was blocked away by a resolute Leopards defence.
The Lidoda Duvha back four were working their socks off, Siphamandla Sithole particularly impressive against Joseph Makhanya.
In attack, Leopards were without captain Mongezi Bobe, but certainly threatened Swallows with their pace. When Swallows captain Lefa Tsutsulupa made a rare mistake, Raymond Monama pounced, running full tilt at the Birds defence.
Monama found Nigerian Joshua Obaje, but Giorgi Nergadze recovered to block for a corner.
Luyolo Mapolisa then flashed a shot wide, before at the other end, Chabangu’s sublime pass released Nomvethe. The Absa Premiership’s leading scorer, however, had a poor first touch before going down trying to leap over Omony. Igesund put his arms in the air asking for a penalty, but replays showed it was simply not a spot kick. Chabangu then almost turned provider again in the 25th minute, his cross just evading the on-rushing Nomvethe and Nergadze. A minute later, Leopards had their best chance of the first half, Mapolisa’s fine shot from a corner tipped over by Greg Etafia.
And Swallows came desperately close to scoring eight minutes from the break, Nomvethe heading across goal for Chenene, who tried to bundle through a crowd of Leopards defenders, the ball trickling just wide.
Igesund pulled Chenene off at the break, bringing on Mpho Maleka, and his cross almost set up a goal early in the second half, Makhanya smashing his shot not too far wide.
But Swallows did get the goal in the 57th minute. Makhanya had been swinging in vicious corners all evening, and this one found Nergadze, who powered his header into the corner of the net. Makhanya, who was much more lively in the second half, flashed another effort just off-target.
Mathebula also curled a free-kick over the bar, while Leopards also had their opportunities, Tiyani Mabunda’s low shot a little too weak to trouble Etafia.
It was Swallows, however, who sealed the game, as Chabangu’s brilliant free-kick was met at the far post by Nomvethe, who nodded home from close range.
“Bhele” was not finished there, more brilliance from Chabangu forcing a mistake from Ernort Dzaga, who played the ball straight into the path of Nomvethe, who slotted in with precision.
All of a sudden it was a goal-fest rout, as Maleka added insult to Leopards’ injury, curling a beauty over Omony, and then drilling in Oscar Machapa’s cross.
Swallows then proceeded to completely lose concentration, conceding two well-taken goals by Nkhatha. Igesund will have to hope that such sloppiness does not cost them, but for now he could enjoy a splendid night for the Birds.
P W D L F A Pts
Pirates 28 15 7 6 34 23 52
Swallows 28 13 1 4 45 33 50
Sundowns 28 13 10 5 43 22 49
SuperSport 28 13 9 6 36 22 48
FS Stars 28 14 6 8 37 28 48
Chiefs 27 12 7 8 31 22 43
Celtic 28 11 8 9 34 29 41
AmaZulu 27 10 8 9 30 22 38
Ajax 27 10 7 10 37 43 37
Platinum 28 10 6 12 36 35 36
Maritzburg 28 7 12 9 25 36 33
Arrows 28 9 5 14 37 41 32
Wits 28 6 11 11 29 38 29
Leopards 27 6 6 15 31 55 24
Santos 28 6 5 17 31 46 23
Cosmos 26 2 10 14 21 42 16