Pirates, Esperance draw in Soweto

7 October 2013

Orlando Pirates played to a goalless draw against Esperance, the winners of Africa’s 2011 Champions League and the runners-up in 2010 and 2012, in the first leg of the Caf Champions League semi-finals at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Saturday.

While it wasn’t a home win, Buccaneers’ coach Roger De Sa suggested after the game that it wasn’t a bad result for his club. “Naturally a win would have been a better result, but my main priority from this match was not to concede a goal,” he explained.

“This enables us to go to Tunisia for the second leg in two weeks’ time with a fighting chance of reaching the final in view of the away goal rule applying when two teams finish on level terms.

Return leg permutations

“Esperance might now have the advantage of playing at home, but they will do so with the knowledge that a 1-1 or 2-2 draw or any other drawn game with goals scored will result in their elimination from the tournament,” De Sa said.

The Tunisians booked their place in the final four by finishing top of Group B with five wins and a single defeat in their six matches and they showed their experience and their confidence by taking the game to Pirates away from home in the early going.

The Blood and Gold’s Joseph N’djeng-N’djeng came close early on after finding some space, but fired off target. He was then denied by Buccaneers’ Senzo Meyiwa, who rose to the challenge when the striker was put through in a one-on-one with the goalkeeper.

Showed their maturity

Pirates showed their maturity by weathering the early pressure and began to control possession and dictate play.

With 10 minutes to go to the break, Oupa Manyisa and Daine Klate broke down the left flank before Klate crossed for Sifiso Myeni, but the winger’s header was far off the mark.

In the second half, the Buccaneers made their home ground advantage tell. Esperance made it easier for the three-time PSL champions to take charge by adopting a defensive mind-set, but that also made it more difficult for Pirates to create meaningful chances.

Penalty appeal

Manyisa let fly from distance but his compass was off. Shortly after that the home team had a penalty appeal turned down after Tlou Segolela, on for Myeni, crossed and an Esperance defender appeared to handle the ball.

Substitute Mpho Makola found the mark with a free kick five minutes from time, but Moaz Ben Cherifa in the Tunisians’ goal was perfectly placed to catch the ball.

Lennox Bacela narrowly missed getting onto the end of a cross from Segolela near the end of the game, with the ball passing across the face of goal, while Thabo Matlaba’s powerful attempt at a late winner was stopped by the Esperance goalie.