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Birds Squeeze Through To Quarters 09/03/05
Moroka Swallows were made to sweat as they ground a hard fought win against Manning Rangers in an Absa Cup last 16 match at the Chatsworth Stadium on Wednesday night, keeping alive their chances of defending their title.

There were no goals in regualtion time - it took until the ninth minute of extra time before Cecil Oerson broke the deadlock, with McDonald Mukansi hitting back almost immediately for the hosts.

The two sides were evenly matched in an uninspiring first half in which both sided kept things tight and battled it out for midfield supremacy.

The Birds did enjoy the lion's share of goal scoring chances in the match and should have taken the lead in the first half.

However, they were let down by some wasteful finishing, especially in the 34th minute, when Goodman Mazibuko missed a header from point blank range.

Gary McNab, playing up front alongside Dennis Lota, also missed a great opportunity when he failed to make the right contact with his head at the near post following a cross from the lively Cecil Oerson on the right.

Swallows keeper Greg Etafia's most tricky moment of the first half came when he had to palm Warren Lewis' attempted clearance over his own crossbar.

The scores remained deadlocked at 0-0 at the half time break.

In the 50th minute the visitors came within inches of scoring when Lota, with the goal at his mercy, just failed to get on the end of an Oerson cross.

Swallows conceded a free kick when Mohammed Ouseb was adjudged to have handled the ball right on the edge of his own 18-yard area and from the resultant spot kick Mxlolisi Mchunu struck the crossbar with a cracking effort, leaving Etafia rooted to the spot.

Mighty Maulers goal keeper Chad Harpur came to the rescue of his team in the 66th minute when he pulled of an incredible reflex save to deny Lota, who could not believe that his effort was kept out.

Rangers enjoyed a good period of play midway through the second half and again came close then Thabiso Hlalele struck the side-netting with a low shot from distance in the 80th minute.

The last noteworthy action in regulation time came when Alton Meiring correctly had his penalty appeal turned down after making slight contact with McNab, who had reverted back to defence.

With the two teams still tied at 0-0, the match went into extra time.

In the ninth minute of the first half of extra time, Swallows finally broke the deadlock through a goal worthy of winning any game. The goal came via Oerson, who spotted Harpur off his line and brilliantly chipped the ball in from out wide on the right.

Rangers nearly replied immediately through Majola, but Etafia intervened with a superb one-handed reflex save.

But in the 14th minute the hosts pulled level when Meiring broke down the left and slid the ball across the goalmouth, where McDonald Mukansi was on hand to apply the finishing touch.

Substitute Grant Igesund may have wrapped things up for Rangers in the 18th minute of extra time, but failed to get his angles right and saw his shot hit the side netting.

With the game set for penalties, Manning Rangers brought on penalty specialist John Tlale in the place of Harpur, who had an excellent game.

However, it was Etafia who proved to be the hero of the night as he saved from Hlalele and Mukansi to keep the Beautiful Birds on track to defend their title.

Alfred Phiri, Lota, Pitso Lekone and Innocent Chikoya all converted for Swallows.


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