Orlando Pirates have a foot in Confed final after beating Ahli in Benghazi
Orlando Pirates have a foot in the Caf Confederation Cup final after a polished 2-0 victory in the opening, away leg of their semifinal against Al Ahli Tripoli on Sunday evening.
Co-coach Mandla Ncikazi said he wanted at least an away goal in the first leg at Benghazi's Martyrs of February Stadium to take to this coming Sunday's second half of the tie at Orlando Stadium.
He got two, and did not have to wait long for them, Innocent Maela's strike in the eighth minute and Goodman Mosele's in the 29th seeing the Buccaneers in the driving seat after they hit a solid rhythm on the closed-ground venue's artificial surface.
In the earlier semifinal first leg TP Mazembe could only manage a 1-0 advantage from their home match in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo against Morocco’s RSB Berkane.
Pirates are seeking to go better than their two continental final defeats of the last decade — against Egypt's Al Ahly in the 2013 Caf Champions League and to Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia in the 2015 Confed Cup.
The Confed is also Bucs' last chance of silverware in 2021-22. Pirates, who have a strong squad, have been inconsistent under co-coaches Ncikazi and Fadlu Davids domestically.
In sixth place in the DStv Premiership, they will not make runners-up come the fast-approaching season's end.
But in the Confed Bucs' flatness has been replaced by a better intensity and ability to break opposition teams down and finish chances. That was the case again in Benghazi on Sunday.
Bucs put in an improved, clinical display than in their 1-1 aggregate and penalties quarterfinal win against Tanzania's Simba SC, especially as they notched their two goals in the opening half. In the second Bucs consolidated and probed cautiously.
Pirates' organisation and technical superiority in their swift, intelligent movement of the ball in attack were too much for Ahli to contend with in the opening half-hour.
Bucs took the lead from a well-worked set-piece. Deon Hotto's corner from the right found the run edging down the left of Mosele to knock the ball back in, Kwame Peprah's strong header forcing goalkeeper Mohamed Nashnush to palm back into the danger zone. Maela gratefully headed into an open goal.
Mosele's role in the opener, holding off a defender to head in the tee-up, showed his class. That was reinforced when the highly-rated Bucs midfielder smacked in his team's second.
Peprah's cross was cleared as far as Mosele who, on the run and under the close attention of a defender, controlled and volleyed beautifully past Nashnush.
It could have been three by the break. In added time Bandile Shandu's cross eluded the Ahli defence and Hotto headed onto the upright then steered the rebound over.
Pirates were more circumspect from the break, absorbing more against a team with a fairly pedestrian ability in attack and probing on the counterattack.
Just before the hour Hotto's explosive pace took him past right-back Ali Maetouq before he forced a stop from Nashnush. Peprah was also through, Ahli's keeper again standing firm.
From the 81st minute the stadium lights kept failing, as the game stopped and started to an end that was prolonged some 15 minutes by the technical failures.
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