University of Pretoria’s chances of returning to the Premiership were resuscitated after Swallows threw a narrow lead to lose 2-1 to Cape Town All Stars in Stellenbosch yesterday afternoon in the penultimate match of the PSL promotion/relegation play-offs.
Just like what happened during the DStv Premiership season, the last game of the play-offs will decide who will gain promotion to the top league.
AmaTuks, as University of Pretoria are affectionately known, remain top of the three-team mini-league on five points from three matches, a point ahead of Swallows in second. The decider between the two will be played in Atteridgeville, Pretoria, on Wednesday.
READ: Play-offs race wide open as Swallows draw with AmaTuks
AmaTuks failed to grab the advantage to go three points clear of Swallows when they were held 1-1 by All Stars midweek in Pretoria.
But after the Swallows defeat, the odds swung back in AmaTuks’ favour.
A draw will be enough for AmaTuks to return to the top flight after a six-year absence when they take on Swallows in the last match of the play-offs at Lucas Moripe Stadium in Pretoria on Wednesday.
Swallows looked on course for a win that would have seen them top the play-offs table after Grant Margeman scored a stunner of a goal in the 62nd minute at Danie Craven Stadium in the Cape Winelands.
But two goals in the last two minutes from Ronaldo Maarman and Ndiviwe Mdabuka pulled the rug out from under Swallows’ feet.
The 22-year-old Maarman let rip from range with a belter that Swallows goalkeeper Jody February could do nothing about.
Then, with Swallows throwing numbers in attack to regain their lead, their captain Wandisile Letlabika had a rush of blood to the head as he used his hand to clear the ball inside the box in the 91st minute, and the referee did not hesitate to point to the spot.
Mdabuka calmly converted the penalty to give All Stars their only win of the play-offs and break Swallows’ hearts.
The sizeable group of travelling Swallows supporters were stunned when Maarman equalised in the 89th minute, and you could hear a pin drop.
Swallows chairperson David Mogashoa organised a bus for the staunch supporters to travel to Stellenbosch and they made their presence felt, as they were louder than the few who cheered on the home side.
Letlabika was inconsolable after the final whistle. It will be hard for him to recover from this costly error. Sadly, the player also lost his father last month.
Letlabika will be feeling that the only thing that can console him will be to score Swallows’ winning goal against AmaTuks on Wednesday to save them from another drop into the lower ranks.
Swallows, as the Premiership team, are under intense pressure to preserve their lucrative top-flight status.
All Stars, at the bottom of the three-team mini-league after two defeats, a draw and a win, will have to go back to the drawing board in the GladAfrica Championship.
AmaTuks will now have to avoid defeat on Wednesday in the last match of the play-offs.Ten Premiership clubs have tried and failed in the 17-year history of the PSL promotion/relegation play-offs. Swallows are among them, having previously falling short in the play-offs.
READ: Swallows’ survival bid back in spotlight
They finished 15th in the DStv Premiership this season and the play-offs presented the last chance for the Soweto club to avoid slipping back into the lower ranks following their revival three seasons ago.
Swallows are pinning their hopes of beating the axe on coach Dylan Kerr’s reputation of saving teams from the jaws of relegation.
Kerr guided Black Leopards and Baroka FC to survival in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
Now the big question is: Will Swallows retain their Premiership status or will AmaTuks go back to top flight football?
Wednesday will bring us the answers.