MOROKA Swallows moved to the top of the Absa Premiership with a thrilling 3-2 win over Ajax Cape Town at the Dobsonville Stadium on Friday.
In a dramatic, entertaining match, the Birds surged into a three-goal lead through a double from Siyabonga Nomvethe and a fine strike from Giorgi Nergadze. The Urban Warriors then went down to ten men when Nhlanhla Vilakazi was sent off, but they very nearly pulled off a miraculous comeback thanks to late goals from Khama Billiat and Brent Carelse.
After a quiet opening 20 minutes the game suddenly came to life with a great chance for Ajax to take the lead through Terror Fanteni, but his goal-bound shot was half stopped by goalkeeper Greg Etafia and Luvhengo Mungomeni did the rest with an acrobatic clearance.
Swallows enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and created a string of half-chances, with Ajax’s reshuffled defence – that featured Nhlanhla Shabalala in the unfamiliar position of centre-back – really struggling to give goalkeeper Sander Westerveld a decent level of protection.
Shabalala had a nightmare in the first half. Just past the half hour mark he completely missed a clearance in the box and allowed Lerato Chabangu to run free on goal – luckily for the Ajax defender Chabangu opted for a square pass to Siyabonga Nomvethe that he overcooked, allowing Aidan Jenniker to make a desperate clearance.
But just ten minutes later Shabalala conceded a soft penalty, bringing down Nomvethe in the box by wrestling him to the ground. The Swallows striker duly converted the penalty to leave the Soweto side 1-0 up at the half time break.
And within fifteen minutes of the restart, the Birds were 3-0 up. Giorgi Nergadze netted a sublime goal on 50 minutes – cracking home a left-footed volley after a brilliantly worked corner kick routine – and Nomvethe got his second of the night ten minutes later from a route-one attack.
At that stage it seemed as if Swallows could rack up a really impressive score line, such was their dominance. However, they took their foot off the pedal and allowed Ajax back into the game, despite the visitors being reduced to ten men on 73 minutes when Nhlanhla Vilakazi was red carded for kicking out in retaliation at MacBeth Sibaya.
Khama Billiat netted on 75 minutes after controlling a long ball out of defence, and Ajax soon had a chance to pull another back when they were awarded a penalty. Fanteni’s kick was saved by Etafia but a retake was ordered – the second spot kick was also kept out by the Nigerian ‘keeper.
Substitute Brent Carelse rattled the crossbar as the Urban Warriors continued to press forward and the midfielder did managed to get his name on the score sheet on 88 minutes, converting a spot kick to set up a tense final few minutes.
Swallows, though, saw out the match to clinch a sixth win from their last seven outings in all competitions.
Moroka Swallows (1) 3 (Nomvethe 42’ pen 60’, Nergadze 50’)
Ajax Cape Town (0) 2 (Billiat 75’, Carelse 88’ pen)
Swallows: Etafia; Isaacs, Hendricks, Mungomeni, Mayinga, Makhanya (Machapa 63’), Nergadze, Tsutsulupa, Mathebula (Sibaya 69’), Chabangu (Maleka 83’), Nomvethe
Ajax: Westerveld; Hlatshwayo (Carelse 64’), Shabalala, Mokeke, Jenniker, Alexander, Vilakazi, Maluleka, Manyama (Lolo 46’), Fanteni (van Graan 81’), Billiat-Backpagepix