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PREVIEWS/REPORTS
Birds denied by late Bucs goal
Moroka Swallows paid the price for not finishing off Orlando Pirates while they had the chance as the Buccaneers fought back to grab a draw in a Castle Premiership match played at the Ellis Park Stadium.

On the balance of play, the Dube Birds can count themselves unlucky that they did not walk off with all three points, which would have been invaluable in terms of the league title race.

Swallows started the game well and their game plan of quickly shutting down the dangerous Bucs midfield paid dividends as the likes of Bennedict Vilakazi and Gift Leremi were kept quiet early on.

The Birds spent much of the first 15 minutes camped out in the Pirates half and earned four corners in that time, however, none of the set pieces did much to trouble keeper Francis Chansa.

The first chance of the game also fell to the Dube Birds when Dennis Lota was given time to pick his spot from the edge of the area in the third minute, only to drag his shot wide of the left-hand upright.

In the 15th minute the visitors again came close when Chansa was forced to pull off a brilliant save to stop Cecil Oerson's wickedly curling free kick hitting the back of the net.

The Sea Robbers' first opportunity came in the 25th minute when Felix Musasa cut in from the right and fired a low grass-cutter towards goal, which was flicked on by Leremi, only for Swallows keeper Conrad Hendricks to intervene with a good reflex save.

The Birds wasted two good chances in quick succession, when in the 26th minute Samuel Ngobeni blasted high over the bar from inside the box and then, on the half hour mark, Alois Ngwerume failed to make clean contact with the ball after being set up for a shot on the edge of the area following some good work by Oerson.

Pirates came back into the game in the final 15 minutes of the first stanza and in the 33rd minute a good move saw the ball end up with Vilakazi inside the Swallows box, however, he was just not able to get a shot away.

Debutant Nigerian midfielder Onyekachi Okonkwo twice tried his luck from distance, but on both occasions he failed to trouble Hendricks.

Just before the half-time break Okonkwo turned provider as he picked out Vilakazi with a good cross, however the Pirates skipper's effort was well off target.

In the 52nd minute Pirates substitute Perry Mutapa spurned a great chance to equalise when his header from a corner struck the crossbar, with Hendricks well out of position.

The Dube Birds finally got the goal which their dominance deserved when Oerson picked out Lota with a cross in the 55th minute and 'Chesa Mpama' powered a header past Chansa to give Swallows the lead against his former employers.

Pirates were given a lifeline in the 57th minute, when, after much deliberation, referee Freddy Kasongo pointed to the spot after the ball appeared to strike Warren Lewis on the hand inside the box.

Edelbert Dinha stepped up to take the kick, but he failed to hit it cleanly and Hendricks did well to get down and make the save. 

With the match nearing the end, Swallows seemed to be on course for victory as Pirates struggled to create chances from the middle of the park, mainly due to the Birds' skipper, Goodman Mazibuko, who covered nearly inch of the Ellis Park turf and tackled as if his life depended on it.

In the 85th minute the Bucs did come close to scoring when Perry Mutapa floated in a free kick to the back post where Jimmy Kauleza was on hand to header the ball across the goal, however, Phumudzo Manenzhe was just too slow to turn the ball into the net.

Then, with the game into injury time, an almost identical set piece from Mutapa located Vilakazi a the back post.The 'Little Napoleon' had the presence of mind to chest the ball across the goal mouth, where Manenzhe was on hand to turn the ball into the net, much to the dismay of the Swallows players, coach Gavin Hunt, and the Birds faithful up in the stands.

By Anthony McLennan

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