Swallows end Stellies’ purple patch with shock win

THABANG Maponya of Moroka Swallows is challenged by Anicent Oura of Stellenbosch FC during their Premiership match at Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto yesterday. BackpagePix

THABANG Maponya of Moroka Swallows is challenged by Anicent Oura of Stellenbosch FC during their Premiership match at Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto yesterday. BackpagePix

Published May 11, 2024


Herman Gibbs

STELLENBOSCH’S 18-match unbeaten Premiership run ended abruptly at Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto yesterday when Moroka Swallows ran out surprise 2-0 winners, after scoring a goal in each half.

This defeat will dent Stellenbosch’s hopes of challenging for CAF Champions League status next season as they may not hold on to their second-place berth by the time the season ends later this month.

Swallows, on the other hand, will move away from the fringes of the relegation zone and this win will secure their Premiership status, for this season at least.

Swallows coach Musa Nyatama was a highly-relieved man afterwards, saying the win gave his side some breathing space from relegation fears.

“We were up against a very good side with four dangerous players up front,” said Nyatama. “We can now breathe easier.

"Stellenbosch is a good side. At half-time, I told the players we were leading but we needed to work harder.

“We absorbed their pressure and then we caught them on the counter.”

Losing coach Steve Barker said his players lacked spark after feeling the fatigue of playing five games in the past few days.

“I could see the players lacked the spark today, but we’ll go back to the drawing board,” said Barker.

The visiting Stellenbosch side was in a celebratory mood before the match because news filtered through from Brakpan that their Diski side was crowned 2023/24 champions after defeating Golden Arrows 4-3.

Swallows didn’t have much to crow about because their Diski side was walloped 6-0 by Mamelodi Sundowns, also yesterday. Sundowns finished runners-up to Stellenbosch, who lifted their second Diski title in three seasons.

Straight from the kick-off, Swallows showed a sense of urgency and their pressure resulted in Stellenbosch conceding three penalties in the opening nine minutes. There was no productive end to this spell, which was far from fluent, but it was penetrative.

After 20 minutes, Swallows were enjoying the lion’s share of possession, but Stellenbosch always looked the likelier to score when they managed to transfer play to the Swallows deep-end.

Stellenbosch rearguard was playing with sufficient guile to keep their defence intact. However, it was in for a rude shock just past the half-hour mark when Swallows scored against the run of play.

A sortie down the flank seemed harmless until Swallows midfielder Lindokuhle Mtshali rifled a shot through a packed goalmouth.

Sage Stephens, the Stellenbosch goalkeeper, was left flat-footed as the shot whistled past him into the net (1-0).

This setback stung Stellenbosch into all-out action for the rest of the half, but they could not respond with an equaliser.

As the half wore on, they enjoyed a surfeit of possession, but they couldn’t penetrate the opposition defence, although they managed three shots on target by the time half-time dawned.

When play resumed in the second-half, Stellenbosch continued to maintain the upper hand, but they failed to fashion scoring opportunities.

Swallows looked comfortable absorbing the pressure and they did well to thwart the opposition attacks on the fringes of their goalmouth.

Just past the hour mark Stellenbosch made a triple change, which saw Andre de Jong, Kyle Jurgens and Genino Palace joining the fray in the hope of providing a spark to their side’s attacking sorties.

Stellenbosch was let off the hook in the 67th minute when Malawian Gabadinho Mhango missed a sitter for Swallows.

Moments later, however, he made amends when he was left unmarked, and after he was sent clear he squeezed his parting shot wide of Stephens to score Swallows’ second goal (2-0).

That was the beginning of the end for Stellenbosch, who overall seemed strangely out of kilter on the day.

Mhango was duly named “Player of the Match” for his goal and one assist.