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Pirates a step closer to quarters

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Soweto giants Orlando Pirates took a step closer to the Caf Confederation Cup quarter-finals after beating Ahli Benghazi at Orlando Stadium.

Kabelo Dlamini of Orlando Pirates celebrates his goal during the 2021 CAF Confederation Cup match against Ahly Benghazi. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu, BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Orlando Pirates are mastering the trade of playing in continental football competitions.

That they have won their all of their home games in the group stage of the Caf Confederation Cup so far, has put them in a steady position to qualify for the quarter-finals of the competition.

On Sunday, it was just a casual day for the Pirates at the Orlando Stadium. They thumped Libyan side Ahli Benghazi 3-0 to go to eight points in Group A – with two games to spare. This was Pirates’ second win at home in the group after beating Enyimba.

This win meant that Pirates will need at least three points in their last two games – at home against ES Setif and away to Enyimba – in order to reach the quarter-finals of the competitions.

Pirates’ undefeated record at home this season looks good on paper, but they’ve got to turn their draws into wins – in domestic football. In the continental showpiece, though, they had a perfect record, winning their last two matches respectively.

Against the Libyans, they were looking to make it three wins out of three in the competition. Coach Josef Zinnbauer made four changes to the team that drew 0-0 with Benghazi away, notably Happy Jele replacing Thulani Hlatshwayo in the heart of defence.

Jele partnered Ntsikelelo Nyauza as they looked to keep Benghazi’s striking contingent at bay. But Pirates weren’t creating forays of their own in Benghazi’s final third either, with their final pass or poor decisions letting them down.

But out of nowhere, the Bucs marked their territory as they broke the deadlock. After a scramble inside Pirates’ box following a corner-kick, Nyauza benefitted from the loose ball before turning and rolling his effort over the line to put his side ahead.

That goal calmed Pirates’ nerves as they started to attack with purpose. However, the closest they came then was through a pin-point shot from Deon Hotto which curled wide off the target – with Tshegofatso Mabasa missing a tap-in by inches.

But Pirates didn’t drop their heads as they doubled their tally before halftime. Hotto whipped in a telling corner-kick which took a goal-bound deflection from Mabasa before Aboubakr Meeld unceremoniously flicked the ball into his own net.

Opportunities, though, were hard to come by for both sides in the second half – in a stanza that proved to be modelled by physicality. Pirates, though, won set-pieces in Benghazi’s final third but they failed to capitalise on them, Hotto hitting a close-range set-piece into the stands.

But with time dying down, Pirates showed a vigour side, sending forays into Benghazi’s box. But it was a delightful square ball from Hotto which Mabasa rattled against goalkeeper Zuber Ateya before Kabelo Dlamini buried home that proved to be fruitful.

With their continental showpiece taking shape, the MTN8 champions will aim to keep their chances of winning a second domestic trophy alive. But that’s easier said than done as they’ll be away to champions Mamelodi Sundowns in the quarter-finals of the Nedbank Cup on Thursday.

@Mihlalibaleka

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