Pirates into Champs League semis

23 September 2013

South African club Orlando Pirates won through to the semi-finals of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League after a goalless draw against Egypt’s Al Ahly in Soweto on Sunday.

The Egyptians, winners of the Champions League four times in the last eight years, had entered the match already assured of a place in the semi-finals, while Pirates needed a victory or Zamalek to defeat AC Leopards to ensure their passage into the final four.

After Zamalek outplayed Leopards 4-1 in Cairo, the Buccaneers reached the semi-finals in second place behind Al Ahly in Group A.

Group B

Tunisia’s Esperance topped Group B, with Cameroon’s Coton Sport taking second place. The Tunisians, who will face Pirates in the final four, put together the most impressive record in the group stages, winning five and losing only one of their six matches.

Coach Roger De Sa’s Sea Robbers had shocked Al Ahly in Cairo, winning 3-0, but despite dominating the contest at the Orlando Stadium on Sunday they couldn’t find a winner.

The Egyptians started the match brightly, with Mohamed Aboutrika and Zaher getting off shots on Senzo Meyiwa’s goal, but the home team then began to dictate play. Pirates’ shooting was poor, though, with only one shot finding the target. In the second half, they improved, but still couldn’t conjure up a winner.

Best opportunity

Pirates’ best opportunity of the contest fell to Thulisizwe Mbuyane, but the substitute, with his first touch of the game, fired high over the crossbar after picking up an inviting through ball 20 minutes from time.

The four-time PSL champions came close to paying for their wayward finishing shortly after that when Walid Soliman broke free with only goalkeeper Meyiwa to beat. However, his shot across the face of goal passed narrowly wide of the left- hand post, leaving Pirates breathing a sigh of relief.

Daine Klate had a diving header blocked near the end of the game by Sherif Ekramy and the teams settled for a goalless draw.

Previous winners

Orlando Pirates are the only South African team to have won the Caf Champions League. That victory was achieved way back in 1995 with a team that featured, among others, Mark Fish, Marks Maponyane, Helman Mkhalele and Williams Okpara.

On their way to the final against the Ivory Coast’s Asec Abidjan, they defeated Swaziland’s Eleven Men in Flight 5-0 on aggregate, Nigeria’s BCC Lions 2-1, Gabon’s Mbilinga 4-2 and Uganda’s Express 2-1.

After drawing with 2-2 with Asec Abidjan in Johannesburg in the first leg of the 1995 final, they produced a fine performance in Abidjan in the away leg of the title decider to win 1-0 and take the title 3-2 on aggregate.