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Johannesburg – Moroka Swallows shrugged aside adversity to gain a crushing 3-0 victory over defending Premier League champions Orlando Pirates at a stunned Orlando Stadium on Saturday night.
The high-flying Birds were deprived of two of their most important players when Nigerian international goalkeeper Greg Etafia withdrew after suffering from a stomach ailment earlier in the day.
Then after little more than 30 minutes play, the rejuvenated, veteran Bafana Bafana schemer, Siyabonga Nomvethe, the guiding influence behind Swallows' revival in the past 12 months, pulled up with a leg injury and was replaced by Mpho Maleka.
Ironically, the two designated replacements for Swallows – Aubrey Mathibe, who replaced Etafia, and the potent Maleka – emerged as two of the heroes in the Birds' most emphatic victory over their traditional rivals for almost two decades.
Mathibe made a series of point-blank saves as if the ball was magnetised to him and Maleka indelibly decided the course of the game when he made the score 2-0 in the 50th minute with a sensational 20-metre shot into the roof of the net.
Then, another Swallows, Katlego Mashego, substitute rubbed salt into Pirates' wounds by scoring the third goal from close range inthe 65th minute.
As for the Buccaneers, who have reaped six major titles in the past two seasons and appeared to be assuming an aura of invincibility, the game took on nightmarish proportions – fatefully going down in the record books as their 100th defeat since the inception of the Premier Soccer League 15 years ago.
And the dramatic change of fortunes in the Pirates' camp was further emphasised by the fact that this was the team's fourth game without scoring and the second in succession in which they conceded three goals – following on the elimination from the MTN8 cup competition last week at the hands of SuperSport United.
Swallows showed their intentions early on and after coming close to opening the score in the 18th minute, the darting Bennett Chenene split the hesitant Pirates' defence two minutes later to open the score.
Once again, Lerato Chabangu, written off as a has-been by Mamelodi Sundowns and SuperSport United, was in the thick of matters in initiating goals for Swallows while demonstrating why Bafana coach Gordo Igesund has recalled him for the squad to face Brazil on Friday night.
Hard as it was to believe, Pirates had more clear-cut chances than Swallows during the 90 minutes, but the Buccaneers' finishing was nothing better than woeful – with five opportunities missed with only the unflinching Mathibe to beat.
Pirates' woe, in the process, was best reflected in the hapless Daine Klate. He shot tamely on three occasions when he might have recorded a hat-trick and was eventually replaced by coach Augusto Palacios in the 60th minute. – Sapa