JOHANNESBURG – MOROKA Swallows slumped into the relegation-threatened second-bottom position in the Premier League after going down 1-0 against Platinum Stars at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace on Sunday afternoon.
The outcome was important and actually worth six points in view of the fact that Stars, who occupied second-bottom place on the log before the match, now vault over Swallows and are ahead of the Birds by two points.
One of the original stalwart clubs of South African soccer nothing seems to be going right for The Birds.
An own goal decided the issue and placing their future in the PSL’s premier division in dire danger.
Swallows’ lack of confidence and concern was reflected in the decision by coach Fani Madida to leave out Nigerian international goalkeeper Greg Etafia, a long-time stalwart of the team, with East European signing Obren Cuckovic taking over between the posts.
Etafia’s form of late has fallen below his past high standard, but it is questionable whether it was the right time to dispose with his services and leave him on the bench in the midst of the club’s present crisis.
Cuckovic looked uneasy and unsure at the outset and his indiscretion in charging to the edge of the penalty for a cross and missing the ball almost gifted Stars a goal in the opening five minutes.
His nervousness was reflected in Swallows’ cautious approach generally in the opening half and although there was an element of luck about Stars’ goal in the 45th minute, it was deserved on the basis of their superior and greater composure up to that point of the game.
The solitary critical goal of the match came about after Stars’ Tintswelo Tshabalala broke clear down the left flank in referee’s optional time of the first half and crossed the ball through Cuckovic’s legs.
Mortified Swallows defender Rudi Isaacs deflecting the ball into his own net The Birds came onto the field for the second period with greater resolution and purpose and enjoyed a clear territorial advantage during the final 45 minutes.
Somewhat out-of-touch stars Lerato Chabangu and Siyabonga Nomvethe, as well as the exciting, up-and-coming Cele, all came within a whisker of scoring.
But a succession of inviting opportunities went begging through indecisive and hurried finishing, with Swallows thwarted when they looked like equalising by an inspired, faultless performance from Kabelo Dambe in the Stars’ goal.
Swallows throwing everything into desperate attack in the closing stages after referee Danie Bennett’s mid-half drink break to counter the extreme heat, Stars came close to increasing their lead from incisive counter attacks initiated by substitute Brice Moon. Â – Sapa