The unbelievable story of Swallows’ return to the top division of South African football gets better with every match.
And based on yesterday’s performance, the Dube Birds removed all doubts about their Premiership ambitions after holding their own in the 1-1 draw against defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns.
Musa Nyatama’s last-gasp goal preserved their unbeaten record and sent out a clear message that the newly promoted DStv Premiership side are indeed the real deal.
The reincarnated Swallows have come back from oblivion with a vengeance following the sad chapter of their relegation in 2015.
Nothing could separate the evenly matched log leaders at Lucas Moripe Stadium in Pretoria yesterday.
Sundowns went ahead in the 45th minute through the power-packing boot of Kermit Erasmus after a sublime through pass from George Maluleka.
Ironically, Maluleka would later provide the “assist” for the visiting team, as he gave away the free kick that resulted in the equaliser.
In the dying moments, Maluleka fouled Kagiso Malinga just outside the penalty box. Malinga delivered a powerful direct shot that Denis Onyango parried into the path of Nyatama, who headed the rebound past the keeper.
There’s not much to separate the two teams at the top of the table, with both on 27 points from seven wins and six draws.
Going into yesterday’s match, Sundowns were depleted in defence.
The Brazilians were without four key defenders who are out for medical reasons, as coach Rhulani Mokwena put it in the build-up to the game.
Ricardo Nascimento, Lyle Lakay, Bangaly Soumahoro and Khuliso Mudau were all unavailable for the game. The other defender, Brian Onyango, was also sidelined with a thigh injury.
Faced with this mini crisis, the Brazilians’ technical team had to improvise and midfielder Mothobi Mvala was fielded in central defence alongside Mosa Lebusa.
The Dube Birds were eager to show that their run of form in the top flight is no fluke. Few teams in the past have had such a blistering start to life in the top flight after being crowned NFD champions.
Up against a dominating force such as Sundowns, the game was the perfect opportunity for the Soweto giants to demonstrate that they are real title contenders.
In midweek, the Swallows duo of Brandon Truter and Ruzaigh Gamildien deservingly won the coach and player of the month awards, respectively.
With nine goals to his name already, Gamildien was unable to continue his red-hot goal-scoring streak yesterday. He will, however, miss the next game because of suspension.
But the rookie Truter continues to punch above his weight, and yesterday it was against the brains trust of Mokwena, Manqoba Mngqithi and Steve Komphela.
Truter engineered the comeback as it was second-half substitute Malinga who won the free kick and executed it for the equaliser.
Gastón Sirino was again in the starting line-up, showing his importance in the squad, thanks to his superb touches and play-making skills in the opening period.
He looked to connect with Themba Zwane, but he was watched closely by the impressive Swallows centre-back Njabulo Ngcobo.
On the opposite side, the evergreen Lebohang Mokoena continued to show his longevity and, together with defender Thabo Matlaba, showed the value of experience.
Overall, the visiters showed immense tenacity to fight until the very end. In the dying minutes of the game, most teams would have just rolled over and accepted their fate of losing to the champions. But not Swallows, who reminded the football fraternity that they aren’t a legendary club for nothing.