Birds edge out Stars

Stars dominated much of the first half, their best effort being a rasping shot from distance by Kleinbooi Taaibos which Greg Etafia tipped over in the sixth minute, but most of their threat came from lofted balls into the area which Etafia dealt with comfortably.

Swallows by contrast hardly threatened. Playing with five men across the back and two strikers who were completely off the pace, it was not until the 38th minute that they got their first shot on target, Collins Mbesuma testing Walter Khumalo from an angle after a mistake by Taaibos.

This seemed to inspire Swallows, who had three more chances in the closing minutes of the half, the ever-energetic Lefa Tsutsulupa firing wide twice from good postions and a long-range shot by Dani Alves that was easily gathered by Khumalo.

Alves’ shot was set up by Lungisani Ndlela who had had an effort form the left which was so badly miscued that it flew out to the right midfield, from where the tiny Brazilian tried his luck.

Ndlela was hauled off at half-time, along with defender Gordon Gilbert, as Nomvete and Sibusiso Khumalo were added to give Swallows thrust on the flanks to add to their strength in the centre.

The hosts continued to dominate during the first 15 minutes of the second half however, and Etafia was at his acrobatic best, tipping around a shot from Mpho Makola in the the 59th minute, although the ball seemed to be curling wide anyway.

Two minutes later Mbesuma missed with a free header from an Alves corner, and a minute later Stars were almost level when a terrible headed back-pass by Ashraf Hendricks was pounced on by Makola who lobbed Etafia only to see the ball bounced to safety off the post.

Swallows slowly began to assert themselves, however, and another Alves corner found Davi Rancan unmarked in the 72nd minute, but his header flew wide.

Stars did not learn any lessons from these misses however, and when Sibusiso Khumalo’s speculative long-range shot was palmed away by his namesake, Alves got to swing in another corner, which found the unmarked Hendricks at the far post, and he nodded the ball back into the mixer, where Nomvete was waiting to glance the ball home.

As in the first half, the sluggish Mbesuma had a couple more chances, but could not muster the speed of movement to do anything with them, and Swallows were nearly made to pay when Stars had the ball in the net in the third minute of time added on, only for it to be correctly ruled out by referee Robert Sithole for handball.