A 10-man Moroka Swallows tumbled to a 3-1 Premier League defeat against Maritzburg United at a rain-drenched Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto on Saturday night.

Similar to their mid-week game against Kaizer Chiefs, The Birds looked to be heading for a draw in spite of playing for three-quarters of the match a player short after the 28th minute red-carding of defender Gilbert Mapemba for a two-footed tackle.

But once again the MTN8 champions lived up to their growing and unenviable reputation of having a defence as leaky as a sieve while conceding gift goals to United's Terrence Mandaza and Frank Gyamfi in the final five minutes.

The Swallows defence was also at sixes and sevens in the 18th minute when Cuthbert Malajila opened the score for United following a 50-metre cross from Mohammad Awal into The Birds' goalmouth.

Goalkeeper Greg Etafia and three Swallows defenders watched a grateful Malajila deflect the bouncing ball into the roof of the net.

Felix Obada equalised for Swallows against his former club six minutes later and ironically The Birds dominated the proceeding for much of the second period in spite of playing with 10 men.

“A win is a win,” said United manager Ernst Middendorp afterwards, “but I cannot be altogether happy to see my players struggling against a team with 10 players for almost 45 minutes.”

Nevertheless, United's victory enabled them to maintain their third place in the PSL log - and with Kaizer Chiefs going down 2-0 to Platinum Stars earlier in the day, the Marizburg club have now closed the gap with the leaders to four points.

Swallows, in contrast, have slipped into an alarming slump as a result of a spate of inexcusable defensive errors, with The Birds having now gone six matches without a victory.

And the lengthy absence of the team's most important player, Siyabonga Nomvethe, following foot surgery, has also blunted The Birds scoring prowess.

For all this, Swallows were probing for a winning goal with the score against United still level at 1-1 in the 85th minute, with a scorching 25-metre shot from Lerato Chabangu only centimetres wide of the past.

But United hit back with the goals from Mandaza and Gyamfi following two telling counter-attacks - and the Swallows defence did the rest. - Sapa