Kamohelo Mahlatsi. Picture: SYDNEY MAHLANGU/BACKPAGEPIX
Kamohelo Mahlatsi. Picture: SYDNEY MAHLANGU/BACKPAGEPIX

After Orlando Pirates had scored what they thought was a late winner‚ Swallows FC’s SA Under-23 international Kamohelo Mahlatsi struck an equaliser deep in injury time to secure a share of the spoils in Sunday’s  1-1 Premier Soccer League draw at Orlando Stadium.

Swallows took the game to Pirates for much of the opening hour of the first “oldest derby” since the Birds’ relegation from the PSL in 2015. But Pirates appeared to time their step-up in tempo well and midfielder Ben Motshwari’s late opener in the 85th minute seemed enough to secure maximum points for Bucs.

Swallows though deserved something from the game and to preserve what is now a remarkable 10-game unbeaten run in a dream start to life back in the top flight. Substitute Mahlatsi scrambled an equaliser three minutes into added time.

As could have been expected from two carpet-playing footballing teams‚ even on a sodden surface in rainy conditions there were attractive combinations and intelligent probing from both sides in the first half‚ with Swallows edging the balance of chances.

Swallows‚ as they have against all opposition this season‚ had no fear pressing forward and early on Thabo Matlaba’s low strike‚ skidding on the wet surface‚ stretched Wayne Sandilands in the Pirates goal.

Matlaba had to go off moments later‚ appearing to have a hamstring issue. It was a mark of the quality that the Birds have assembled in their squad that one Bafana Bafana left-back was replaced by another, the man who snuffed out Egypt’s Mo Salah at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations‚ Sifiso Hlanti.

Swallows’ tricky winger Kgaogelo Sekgota found space on the left and crossed low for Ruzaigh Gamildien to turn a shot at goal and force a save from Sandilands.

Pirates’ promising right-back Wayde Jooste twisted into the area just after the half-hour mark‚ striking hard at Virgil Vries from a tough angle.

Pirates came out for the second half seemingly intent on upping the tempo. Swallows responded in kind as action swung from end to end.

Again it was the Birds who emerged from the exchanges with the best opportunity‚ as wing Fawaaz Basadien’s chip over the top landed at the feet of Gamildien to turn and call Sandilands into action again.

Bucs were then denied what could have been the decisive opportunity to break the deadlock. Substitute Gabadinho Mhango slipped a pass to Fortune Makaringe‚ who burst through the middle and was hacked down by the challenge of Tlakusani Mthethwa.

To the dismay of Pirates‚ referee Jelly Chavani booked Makaringe for diving.

Bucs had however found their stride and Thembinkosi Lorch played Deon Hotto through on the left‚ Vries saving at his Namibia international teammate’s feet.

Bucs might have left it late to take command of the game‚ but when they did in was by the scruff of the neck‚ so when Motswari finally struck the opener it was not a surprise.

Mhango received a throw-in and advanced on the left of the box to be challenged by Sammy Seabi‚ the ball squirting out to Motshwari‚ who smacked in a trademark drive from just outside the box that beat Vries.

Bucs would have felt they had secured a win. But a substitute who has had impact for the Birds from the bench this season‚ Joseph Mhlongo‚ got into space on the right and squared hard and low‚ Mahlatsi getting in ahead of Vries and a marker to bury an equaliser with seconds left.

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