Orlando Pirates and Raja Casablanca have it all to play for after the two teams drew the first leg of their Caf Confederation Cup quarter-final clash in Johannesburg.
DURBAN – A 59th minute goal from Ben Malango earned Raja Casablanca a vital 1-1 away draw against Orlando Pirates in their Caf Confederation Cup quarter-final first leg clash at the Orlando Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Malango was gifted the ball following a defensive lapse in concentration from Nathaniel Nyauza with Pirates defender Bongani Sam also being unable to recover following his defensive partner’s error.
Vincent Pule had put the Sea Robbers ahead in the 38th minute with a well-executed goal from a one on one position after taking advantage of lax defending from the visitors and rolling the ball into the net.
The first half was a fairly tame affair for the most part with neither side really creating clear-cut opportunities for much of it, though Pirates did dominate possession.
Wayde Jooste appeared to be causing the Casablanca defence problems in the early part of the game. Jooste earned his side three set-pieces in quick succession between the second and fifth minutes though they were unable to capitalize from them.
Jooste looked to catch Raja keeper Anas Zniti off-guard in the seventh minute but the 32-year-old was alert to the danger.
The first shot of the game for either side only came in the 28th minute as Soufiane Rahimi struck a tame effort towards goal which was easily collected by Pirates keeper Wayne Sandilands.
Orlando Pirates captain Thulani Hlatswayo did produce a vital header in the 33rd minute to avert a Malango cross. The 27-year-old who hails from the DR Congo was no doubt the player from the visiting team who appeared to be causing the home defence the most problems in the game.
Pule tried to put Pirates ahead again in the 64th minute but his effort lacked the necessary power to trouble the opposition goalkeeper.
Paseka Mako had a chance to put Pirates ahead in the death as the home side had an attacking passage of play though Zniti did what he had to do to clear.
There is no doubt that Casablanca will be the happier side with the outcome. Not only did they avoid defeat away from home but they also scored a vital away goal.
Pirates will have their work cut out ahead of them going into the second leg which will take place at the Stade Mohammed V Stadium in Morocco next week.
Casablanca will certainly be the favourites to advance to the semi-finals. They previously won the Confederation Cup three years ago whilst no South African team has ever won Africa’s second-tier club competition.
Pirates will either have to win away from home or earn a high scoring draw if they are to advance to the semi-finals of the competition.
Then again, anything can happen in Cup football.