Swallows win, go top
Johannesburg - Edward Manqele announced his return to top form with a well-taken hat-trick that handed Moroka Swallows a 3-2 win over Mpumalanga Black Aces at Dobsonville Stadium on Friday night.
The victory sends the Birds to the top of the Absa Premiership log, though they could lose that lofty position later in the weekend depending on results elsewhere.
Aces made all the running in the opening quarter hour, dominating possession and often threatening Greg Etafia’s goal without really making any clear-cut chances.
However, against the run of play, Swallows opened the scoring in the 18th minute. Siyabonga Nomvethe got in behind the Aces defence and was denied by goalkeeper Bafana Nhlapo, but Edward Manqele guided the ball into an unguarded net from the rebound.
Three minutes later Aces should have brought themselves level through Themba Zwane, who was able to turn in the penalty area and get a shot away, but he directed his effort wide of Etafia’s left-hand post.
Manqele doubled both his tally and Swallows’ advantage with a superb volley in the 23rd minute. Nomvethe provided a terrific cross from the left flank and the former Free State Stars man peeled away from his marker before firing a right-footed effort into the net for 2-0.
Five minutes later AmaZayoni deservedly pulled a goal back, finally getting some reward for their positive play. Mabhuti Khenyeza was able to hold the ball up in the penalty area and tee up Thabo Qalinge, who smashed a shot past the helpless Etafia.
From then on Aces were almost relentless in attack, with Khenyeza and Onyekachi Okonkwo particularly troublesome for the Birds’ defence, but the half ended with the home side still 2-1 ahead.
The Mpumalanga side started the second half strongly as well, but once more, again the run of play, Swallows found another goal. This time Dikgang Mabalane broke free down the right flank and provided a cross for Manqele to sweep home the ball and rack up his hat-trick.
Sadly, Manqele soon picked up an injury and was forced to limp off. He was replaced by Darren Lurie, who provided physicality and industry up front, but didn’t have the same penetration and movement as the man he came on for.
Aces continued to prove for a goal to get themselves back into contention, but they only made it 3-2 deep into injury time when substitute Clifford Ngobeni coolly finished with a low shot. However, it was too little, too late.