'Birds' go down at Loftus

Moroka Swallows suffered a narrow 0-1 Castle Premiership loss to Mamelodi Sundowns in an intense top-of-the-table clash at Loftus Stadium 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.

Thereafter, Sundowns threatened when going forward, but the Swallows defence dealt well with the pressure. In fact, the 'Birds' could have taken the lead through Henrico Botes, when the striker was through on goal but took too long to take a shot, allowing Sundowns to clear their line.

Greg Etafia was in no charitable mood when he denied Josta Dladla a goal, with the 'Birds' goalminder coming off his line early and stopping the Sundowns midfielder dead in his tracks.

The creative Haskins worried the Sundowns defence with an individual effort, creating space for himself before shooting, only for Calvin Marlin to keep his shot out.

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 stopping 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 Premiership log leaders.

From a rare overlapping run down the right flank in the 52nd minute, young Swallows defender Isaacs delivered a telling cross into the Sundowns penalty area, but Chalwe was unlucky to redirect the ball 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.

Unfortunately, the 'Birds' went a goal down 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 arrival of Mame Niang - the lanky striker came off the bench to replace Botes - caused some concern for Sundowns as Swallows searched for the equalizer, but Sundowns just held on for the 1-0 victory.

Despite this loss, the 'Beautiful Birds' remain in the top six, with their next fixture an ABSA Cup encounter against traditional rivals Orlando Pirates on Saturday, February 24, at Potchefstroom Stadium (kick-off 8pm).

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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