Sundowns secure their lead

A 1-0 scoreline in favour of Mamelodi Sundowns was probably a fair reflection of a tightly-contested and intense top-of-the-table Castle Premiership clash between Moroka Swallows and the defending champions on Saturday evening.

The first real goal-scoring opportunity of the game came in only the sixth minute when Swallows midfielder Mark Haskins took a shot from outside the box, an effort which crashed into the side-netting.

In typical Sundowns fashion, however, 'Downs fought back with some good inter-passing allowing the home team through the Swallows defence, only for Lerato Chabangu to send his shot flying over the bar.

But Swallows responded well with Henrico Botes going through on goal, only for the 'Birds' striker to take took too long in front of goal, with Sundowns able to clear their line.

The pace of the match increased midway through the first half and the home side could have taken the lead when Esrom Nyandoro's defence-splitting pass found Josta Dladla on the run. But Swallows goalkeeper Greg Etafia did well to come off his line early and deny the Sundowns midfielder a goal.

With the Sundowns defence proving hard to penetrate, Haskins did well to create space for himself before shooting but Calvin Marlin was up for the challenge and he made the save.

On the other end of the pitch, Etafia, again, came to the rescue when he parried a Lerato Chabangu shot in the 24th minute, followed by a fierce strike from Nyandoro just four minutes later.

The visitors were as determined as 'Downs for an opening goal, with Cecil Oerson sending a cross flying into the box from a free-kick, only for Rudi Isaacs's header to go narrowly wide.

In the 44th minute Swallows striker Songwe Chalwe found space and ran towards the goals, but he shot straight at the 'keeper and the score remained 0-0 at half-time.

The second half saw the home team dominate proceedings early on, but the Swallows defence stood firm, with 'keeper Etafia clearly determined to keep a clean sheet as he produced some great saves to deny the current Premiership log leaders.

A rare overlapping run down the right flank in the 52nd minute saw young Swallows defender Isaacs deliver a cross into the Sundowns penalty area but Chalwe's attempted tap-in crashed into the side-netting.

The visiting 'Birds' could have gone ahead in the 60th minute, but Marlin produced yet another great save to stop Bevan Fransman's header from a Japhet Zwane cross.

Not to be out-done, Etafia produced another stunning save, this time keeping out a fine snap-shot from Chabangu in the 65th minute.

But Etafia was unable to prevent the inevitable and he had no answer in the 74th minute when Sundowns defender Oscar Ntwagae passed across the field for Brent Carelse, with the former Ajax Cape Town midfielder crossing for Surprise Moriri who tapped in for a 1-0 lead.

The presence of lanky substitute Mame Niang caused some concern for Sundowns as Swallows desperately searched for the equaliser, but the defending champions held on to consolidate their position at the top of the Premiership standings as the business-end of the season draws nearer.

- 'Birds' fly past Arrows
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- Preview - Swallows v Golden Arrows
- Zwane to face his former team
- 'Birds' youngster represents Africa

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Sunday, March 11
Castle Premiership:
Wits v Swallows
Kick-off: 3.45pm
Venue: Bidvest Stadium

March 3
Castle Premiership
Won 1-0 v Arrows
Venue: Germiston Stadium

February 24
Absa Cup
Lost 0-2 v Pirates
Venue: Olen Park

February 17
Castle Premiership
Lost 0-1 v Sundowns
Venue: Loftus Stadium

February 11
Castle Premiership
Won 2-0 v Ajax CT
Venue: Germiston

Where will Moroka Swallows finish this season?

Win the league
Top three
Top five
Top eight