High-flying Swallows FC ends year joint top with champions Sundowns
The sky is the limit for high-flying rookies Swallows FC after ending the year joint top of the DStv Premiership log standings with champions Mamelodi Sundowns.
The Soweto club only occupies second spot due to their inferior goal difference with the first quarter of the season completed.
Swallows won their fifth match in eight outings‚ including three draws‚ and had to work hard for this come-from-behind 2-1 away victory under sweltering heat in Venda.
Victory elevated Swallows back to second spot and level on 18 points with Sundowns‚ who were held at Lamontville Golden Arrows on Saturday‚ as the Premier Soccer League (PSL) played its last round of matches before the Christmas break.
Leopards took the lead in the sixth minute at Thohoyandou Stadium on a hot Sunday afternoon through Onyedikachi Ononogbu following a superb team move that ended with Zimbabwean international Ovidy Karuru providing the assist for the Ivory Park-born Ononogbu for his first goal of the season.
Ruzaigh Gamildien equalised shortly before the half time break when he connected with a Thabo Matlaba low cross and blasted home to the top of the net to make it 1-1.
Substitute Joseph Mhlongo‚ playing against his previous employers before joining Swallows‚ scored the winning goal with 20 minutes remaining and his strike will stake a claim among one of the goals of the season.
Mhlongo collected the ball near the corner line on the left flank and cut inside before releasing a ferocious curling shot with his right foot that Swallows keeper Virgil Vries could only watch go past him to rattle the net to give Brendan Truter’s side a lead that they never relinquished.
Sundowns could have ended the year leading by two clear points at the top but their 1-1 away draw against Arrows opened the door for Swallows‚ who condemned Leopards to their fourth loss in eight matches.
Leopards‚ who survived relegation by the whisker last season‚ end the year second from bottom having won just once and drawn twice for their five points from eight outings.
Coach Dylan Kerr will be well aware of the work his team needs to do in the new year to steer clear of relegation places.
Kerr bemoaned his team taking the lead only to give the initiative back to Swallows with a soft equaliser and lacklustre marking that allowed Mhlongo time and space to shoot from the edge of the box.
“Once you have scored‚ you are on the front foot‚ and you need to take the game to the opponents. Unfortunately we didn’t do so. We kept giving the ball away which encouraged them to come forward‚” Kerr said in his TV post match interview.
Kerr’s counterpart Truter was over the moon with the result and the position that Swallows find themselves with the first quarter of the league season completed.
“There’s still a lot of football to play and we are not getting carried away with ourselves. I need to keep the team very well grounded.
"We are equal with the defending champions on points. That’s an accolade but there is still so much football to play‚” said Truter.
The Premiership action will return with a blockbuster fixture between Sundowns and Orlando Pirates at Loftus on January 2.
Swallows will be in action three days later they host Cape Town City and will hope to pick up on the form that has seen them joint top after eight matches in the new year.
Other Premiership results:Friday December 18:
Maritzburg United 2 - 2 Stellenbosch FC
Saturday December 19:
Golden Arrows 1 - 1 Mamelodi Sundowns
Kaizer Chiefs 1 - 1 Bloemfontein Celtic
Baroka FC 1 - 3 SuperSport United
Cape Town City 3 - 2 TS Galaxy
Sunday December 20:
AmaZulu 3 - 1 Chippa United
Black Leopards 1 - 2 Swallows FC