Monnapule Saleng scored a hat-trick to lead Orlando Pirates to a 4-1 DStv Premiership victory against struggling Swallows on Friday night at Dobsonville Stadium.
Saleng, who has enhanced his case for consideration for the prestigious Footballer of the Season award, also contributed to this critical victory.
The Buccaneers remain in third position with 32 points from 22 games but have closed the deficit on second-placed SuperSport United to two points.
This is a much-needed result for Pirates coach José Riveiro, who returned to the bench after serving his suspension following last weekend’s tight loss to Kaizer Chiefs in the Soweto derby.
While Pirates are on the rise and still in contention for second place and Champions League qualification, Swallows and coach Ernst Middendorp are in desperate need of a win.
Swallows are dangerously third from the bottom with 24 points from 22 games, and the pressure is mounting as they may be passed by Maritzburg United and Marumo Gallants below them.
Six minutes into the game, Saleng found the back of the net with an incredible back-heel kick to beat Swallows’ goalie after receiving the ball from Kabelo Dlamini on the left flank.
Only two minutes after halftime, the Pirates extended their lead, and Saleng turned provider, evading a few Swallows players before dropping the ball in front of Terrence Dzvukamanja, who finished the job.
By the hour mark, Saleng did just enough to connect with a ball from Dlamini while under pressure from a few Swallows players in the box.
Swallows equalised in the 76th minute, with a goal from substitute attacker Mthokosizi Shwabule, who was unmarked in the area after receiving the ball from Tlakusani Mthethwa.
With a slick finish during the referee’s optional time, Saleng struck the final nail in Swallows’ coffin for a well-deserved hat trick.