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Pelembe nets as smash-and-grab side Royal go second in South Africa

Johannesburg (AFP) – Mozambican Elias Pelembe scored after 95 minutes for South African Premiership smash-and-grab experts Royal AM, who beat Swallows 1-0 on Sunday to go second in their debut top-flight campaign.

After failing to win promotion last season, the Durban outfit bought the franchise of cash-strapped Bloemfontein Celtic and have barely looked back since.

As the title race in the richest African national league heads toward the final straight, Royal trail runaway leaders and defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns by 15 points.

But they are ahead of traditional giants Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, who occupy third and fourth places, and 2021 runners-up AmaZulu, another Durban club who lie eighth.

Veteran Pelembe struck with a shot from the edge of the box into the corner of the net to stun relegation threatened Swallows, who deserved a draw.

The home team lacked their usual attacking spark with stars Vincent Letsoalo and Mxolisi Macuphu well contained by the visitors from Soweto.

Royal have repeatedly snatched victories or draws thanks to late or added-time goals and there was barely time to restart play after Pelembe netted before the final whistle sounded.

After losing their first home league match, Royal have turned Chatsworth Stadium in the Indian Ocean port city into a fortress, winning eight times and drawing twice in 10 outings.

Swallows, who recently hired Malta-born coach Dylan Kerr in the hope that he can save another Premiership club from demotion, slipped to third last, just one point above the drop zone.

Once lowly Marumo Gallants recorded a third straight league win by edging fifth-placed Stellenbosch 1-0 through a first-half penalty converted by Ndabayithethwa Ndlondlo in northern city Polokwane.

Earlier, recent signing Juan Ortiz from Venezuela wasted a good chance to put the visitors from the Cape winelands ahead when he sidefooted wide with Gallants’ defence in disarray.

Golden Arrows, the third Durban side in the elite league, are struggling a year after finishing fourth with a 2-1 home loss to strugglers Chippa United pushing them down to 11th.

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