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All Square Between Birds And Sundowns 22/01/05
There were no goals at the Rand Stadium as Moroka Swallows and Mamelodi Sundowns played out to a draw in a Castle Premiership match on Saturday afternoon.

The game lived up to its reputation as being a hard fought contest between the fourth and second-placed teams on the PSL log.

Neither side could be faltered for their commitment in a game which rendered few clear cut goal scoring opportunities.

The match got off to a cracking start - in the opening minute Swallows' veteran Warren Lewis came to the rescue of his team with a well-timed challenge inside his own box to stop Paulus Masehe's burst through on goal, while shorty afterwards Sundowns keeper Andre Arendse denied Birds striker Dennis Lota from getting in a shot at goal when he dived at the Zambian's feet to get the ball.

Lota again missed a chance to give his side the lead, when, in the 27th minute he was given space from just outside the area to shoot, however, his low shot was dragged just wide of the left-hand upright.

In the 28th minute Lungisani Ndlela had the ball in the back of the net for the Dube Birds, but the goal did not stand as Ndlela was adjudged to have made his run from an offside position.

In the 31st minute Downs came agonisingly close to opening their account when winger Siake Tiene latched onto a volley from a tight angle, only to see his effort rebound off the upright and back into play.

Dennis Lota did well to pounce on a flick on from Ndlela in the 39th minute and beat Arendse to the ball, but as he rolled it goalwards, Downs defender Sashi Chalwe was on hand to clear off his own goal line.

The teams went into the half-time break still deadlocked at 0-0, which was a fair reflection of what was an evenly contested match up to that point.

Swallows manager Gavin Hunt started the second half by bringing on Shaun Permall and Mark McVeigh for Ndlela and Cecil Oerson respectively, however it was Sundowns who nearly drew first blood when Birds keeper Greg Etafia acrobatically pushed away Chalwe's header for a corner in the 55th minute.

The hosts came close when first Mazibuko shot wide from 20-yards out and then Edzai Kasinauyo failed to keep his volley on target after defender Bhekithemba Ndlovu had picked him out at the back post with an inch-perfect pass.

Sundowns wasted a guilt edged chance to score in the 81st minute when substitute Godfrey Sapula's softly-hit shot rolled slowly towards the Swallows goal with no-one taking the responsibility of finishing off his effort.

The Beautiful Birds continued to be put under pressure by the visitors, but their defence, with Lewis in outstanding form, continued to hold strong against the Brazilian's onslaught.

Swallows nearly grabbed a late winner when a brilliant move saw the ball worked to Lota, who beat two defenders before unleashing a shot which was bound for the back of the net until Arendse intervened with a fantastic reflex save.

The result would not have helped either team's ambition of closing the gap on log leaders Orlando Pirates, who play Golden Arrows on Saturday night.

By Anthony McLennan

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