Home Sport Bucs held by Al Ittihad at Orlando Stadium

Bucs held by Al Ittihad at Orlando Stadium

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Fortune Makaringe of Orlando Pirates challenges Elmehdi Elhouni of Al Ittihad during their CAF Confederation Cup match at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Sunday
Fortune Makaringe of Orlando Pirates challenges Elmehdi Elhouni of Al Ittihad during their CAF Confederation Cup match at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Sunday. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu, BackpagePix

Orlando Pirates and Al Ittihad Tripoli walked away with a point each from their CAF Confederation Cup Group B clash at Orlando Stadium on Sunday night.

Johannesburg — Orlando Pirates finished the group stage of the CAF Confederation Cup on a mild note after being held to a goalless draw by Al Ittihad Tripoli at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Sunday night.

Pirates’ top finish in Group B with four wins, one draw and one loss. They’ll play the return leg at home in the last eight, while Ittihad finished as the group’s runners up and also qualified for the last eight.

Pirates might have only taken a point from this match, but they’ll take a lot of positives, such as welcoming back their supporters for the first time in two years after the relaxation of the Covid-19 regulations during the recent Fifa window.

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After being knocked out of all the domestic competitions, while they are far-behind in the title race, Pirates’ realistic chance of winning a silverware lie in the continental showpiece this season. But they’ll have to work hard to win the trophy.

They came into this clash at the back of an impressive run in the group stage after winning four matches and losing one. But they were not leaving any stone unturned as they started with a strong Xl, leading the line with Kwame Peprah.

But perhaps, their returning fans were happy to see the return of Gabadinho Mhango to the match-day squad. The Malawian was on the bench, making his first match-day squad since impressing in the Africa Cup of Nations back in January.

The Buccaneers started with a high tempo, but they didn’t make successful inroads into the final third. The visitors were happy to keep a high line and avert all the pressure, forcing the home side to take shots from distance as well.

For their efforts of trying to break down Ittihad’s wall, Pirates were awarded two identical free-kicks just outside the visitor’s penalty box. But their attacker Kabelo Dlamini failed to hit the target on both occasions, with his shots sailing wide.

But Dlamini was unfortunate not to grab an assist as he whipped in a square that passed Peprah before Fortune Makaringe failed to direct the ball towards an empty net with the goal at his mercy as keeper Maud Allafi was in no man’s land.

The visitors unceremoniously had a bright start to the second half, keeping Pirates’ defence on their toes. So much so that they were unfortunate not to find the lead after Mohamed Zubya placed his shot wide of the target after a corner-kick.

With the clock winding down, Pirates opted to throw forward some fresh legs, with Mhango and Thembinkosi Lorch taking the field. The latter was received with a standing ovation from the stands after being side-lined for the last three months.

In the end, though, Pirates huffed and puffed but they couldn’t get the three points. But that won’t matter much as they are through to the quarter-final of the competition with an undefeated record, a feat that will motivate them going forward.

@Mihlalibaleka

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