ORLANDO Pirates advanced to the final of the CAF Champions League after holding Esperance to a 1-1 draw at the Olympic Stadium in Rades on Saturday night.
After a goalless draw in the first leg in Soweto a fortnight ago, the 1-1 draw on the night and on aggregate sees the Buccaneers advance on away goals. Rooi Mahamutsa scored the crucial goal early in the second half for the South African side.
Esperance settled quickly and dominated the opening minutes of the match, pinning Pirates back in their own half and enjoying the majority of possession. Yet Bucs gradually got a foothold in the game and threatened with their athleticism and speed on the counter attack.
On 18 minutes the visitors’ pace sliced open Esperance’s defence and sent Tlou Segolela through on goal, but the winger opted for a difficult pass to Lennox Bacela rather than shooting himself, and the chance quickly evaporated.
On 29 minutes Segolela almost caught out goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifa with a cross-shot to the near post that forced the Esperance No 1 to palm the ball away for a corner kick.
Two minutes later Senzo Meyiwa got lucky at the other end, as he only half-stopped an awkward long range shot from Houcine Ragued – the ball looped up and bounced off the top of the crossbar for a corner kick.
Shortly thereafter he was called upon to make another tricky stop, initially fumbling a shot from a free kick but recovering in time to prevent Harrison Afful from having a tap-in.
Pirates started the second half strongly and only an amazing save from Ben Cherifa stopped Daine Klate heading home Segolela’s cross in the 49th minute.
But just three minutes later a Segolela corner kick picked out Rooi Mahamutsa at the near post and his glancing header found the back of the net to put Bucs 1-0 up and with a precious away goal in their pocket.
Yet the Soweto giants then went to sleep at the back and allowed Esperance to level the game at 1-1 in the 55th minute. Winger Youcef Belaili provided a low cross from the right and substitute Iheb Msakni swept the ball home.
On 58 minutes Happy Jele had a great chance to put Bucs back in front with a free header from another excellent Segolela delivery, but he only succeeded in hitting the post, while Bacela made a mess of the rebound chance.
Yet the 1-1 draw was enough for Bucs, who progressed on the away goals rule and will face either Coton Sport or Al Ahly in the two-legged final next month.
Esperance de Tunis (0) 1 (Msakni 55’)
Orlando Pirates (0) 1 (Mahamutsa 52’)
Esperance: Ben Cherifa, Derbali, Chemmam, Dhaouadi, Ben Mansour, Ragued, Aouadhi, Afful (Akaichi 57’), Belaili, Darragi (Msanki 46’), Ndjeng (Jouini 77’)
Pirates: Meyiwa, Jele, Mahamutsa, Gcaba, Matlaba, Manyisa, Jali, Segolela, Klate, Myeni (Magalesa 90), Bacela (Mbesuma 86’).-Backpage TXT