Stars surprise the Birds
Platinum Stars have caused a surprise with a well-deserved 3-1 victory over Moroka Swallows in their opening Absa Premiership match of the season at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace on Sunday afternoon.
Dikwena secured the perfect start to their campaign thanks to goals from Robert Ng’ambi, Siphelele Mthembu and Benson Mhlongo, while Lerato Chabangu scored a consolation for the visitors.
Stars coach Cavin Johnson handed competitive debuts to a number of his new signings, Mhlongo, Obert Moyo, Tinstswalo Tshabalala and Mthembu, with Mogakolodi Ngele coming on in the second half. Veteran forward Henrico Botes was missing through suspension.
Swallows went with their tried and trusted line-up in a 4-5-1 formation, with Siyabonga Nomvete spearheading the attack and new man Felix Obada in midfield.
Dikwena were ahead inside five minutes as Joseph Malongoane’s corner was expertly headed home by Ng’ambi with the Swallows defence standing static. The Malawian international showed great movement to shake his marker Giorgi Nergadze and power the ball past Greg Etafia in the visitors’ goal.
Swallows almost found an equaliser a few minutes later when neat interplay between Lefa Tsutsulupa and Bennett Chenene saw the latter break the Stars defensive line, but his scuffed shot came off the foot of the post.
The ball rebounded into play, hit Elias Ngwepe and narrowly went wide of goal in what was The Birds’ only real opportunity of the first half.
It was 2-0 for the home side on 27 minutes when Nergadze played a rampaging Ng’ambi onside down the left-flank and his cross was perfect for Mthembu to side-foot home on his debut.
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Nomvete should have pulled one back for Swallows when Stars goalkeeper Siyabonga Mpontshane dropped a routine long-ball at the feet of the Bafana Bafana striker. But with the goal gaping, he could only direct his shot onto Dikwena centre-back Thabiso Semenya, who had taken up a position on the line.
Chabangu found himself free on goal shortly afterwards, but shot straight at Mpontshane, before Chenene sprung the offside trap, rounded the goalkeeper, but put his effort into the side-netting from a tight angle.
Stars then made the points safe when Mhlongo scored his first PSL goal for three years, his last before this game a wonderful strike against the selfsame Swallows for Orlando Pirates in August 2009.
Ngwepe swung over the corner, and Mhlongo beat Ashraf Hendricks in the air to head past Etafia and into the far corner of the net.
Chabangu did pull a goal back as his fired home a wonderful free-kick from 25-yards, finding the top-corner with a superb dink over the wall that left Mpontshane leaden-footed. Vuyo Mere was adjudged to have handled the ball on the edge of the area.
Felix Obada had a good sight of goal late on, but could only find the side-netting, while at the other end Molangoane was inches wide with his side-footed effort from the edge of the penalty-area.
Swallows will now turn their attention to the MTN8 semifinal, first leg, with Mamelodi Sundowns on Saturday night, while Stars must wait until August 22 for their next game, away at Bloemfontein Celtic.
Platinum Stars (2) 3 (Ng’ambi 5’, S Mthembu 27’, Mhlongo 65’)
Moroka Swallows (o) 1 (Chabangu 68’)
Stars: Mpontshane, Mere, Semenya, Moyo, Ngwepe, Msomi, Mhlongo, Molangoane, Ng’ambi (Malokase 72’), Tshabalala (Phala 57’), S Mthembu (Ngele 80’)
Swallows: Etafia, Mapemba, Hendricks, Nergadze, Lekgothoane, Obada, Sibaya (Makhanya 78’), Tsutsulupa (Machapa 64’), Chenene (Maleka 59’), Chabangu, Nomvete