Orlando Pirates reach CAF Confederation Cup final despite shock defeat

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Orlando Pirates and Al Ahli Tripoli in the 2021/22 CAF Confederation Cup semi-final second leg at Orlando Stadium. (Gallo Images)
Orlando Pirates and Al Ahli Tripoli in the 2021/22 CAF Confederation Cup semi-final second leg at Orlando Stadium. (Gallo Images)

Orlando Pirates reached the CAF Confederation Cup final on Sunday despite a shock 1-0 loss to Libyan visitors Al Ahli Tripoli in a semi-final second leg.

Pirates built a 2-0 first-leg lead in Benghazi last Sunday and qualified 2-1 on aggregate for a second final appearance in the second-tier African competition.

Seemingly in a hopeless position after the home defeat, Tripoli were the better team in the return match, especially in the opening half on a cold, damp night in Soweto on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

But with the match heading for a goalless stalemate, Libyan substitute Ali Abu Arqoub scored on 89 minutes to set up a tense finish, which included four minutes of added time.

A second Tripoli goal would have taken the semi-final to a penalty shootout, but the tired visitors never threatened to score a second time at Orlando Stadium.

Penalty decision reversed

Ahly dominated the early exchanges and were awarded a penalty midway through the half when Pirates' gaffe-prone captain and centre-back Happy Jele handled.

The Gambian referee pointed to the spot, but later changed his mind after reviewing the incident on the touchline VAR monitor.

While replays confirmed the ball came off the boot of Jele and touched his right hand, the match official presumably considered it a ball-to-hand situation rather than vice versa.

Ghana-born Richard Ofori of Pirates was the much busier goalkeeper, repeatedly thwarting Tripoli with acrobatic saves and parries, while opposite number Muhammad Nashnoush was a virtual spectator.

The only time Pirates threatened to score in the opening 45 minutes was off a free-kick which eluded the Ahly defence, but unmarked Jele failed to connect with the ball.

Pirates improved in the second half, helped by a string of substitutions, while an Ahly side used to performing at sea level gradually faded as they battled the 1 632-metre altitude.

Arqoub had barely came off the bench when he scored, latching on to a loose ball outside the box and unleashing a shot that took a slight deflection off Goodman Mosele before landing in the net. 

Pirates will face Moroccan club Renaissance Berkane, who scored three goals from the 79th minute to defeat Democratic Republic of Congo visitors TP Mazembe 4-1.

Bakr el Helali gave Berkane a 10th-minute lead that lasted just 60 seconds before Phillippe Kinzumbi equalised in north-eastern Morocco.

Mazembe were reduced to 10 men midway through the second half when Tandi Mwape was sent off and the late goal rush began when captain Larbi Naji put Renaissance in front a second time.

Youssef el Fahli converted an 88th-minute penalty to edge Berkane in front on goal aggregate and he put the outcome beyond doubt with another goal six minutes into added time.

Beaten 1-0 in the first leg last Sunday after conceding an added-time goal, Berkane triumphed 4-2 on aggregate

Berkane won the Confederation Cup in 2020, while Pirates were runners-up to Etoile Sahel of Tunisia in 2015.

The final is scheduled for this Friday in the Nigerian city of Uyo.

CAF Confederation Cup semi-finals second leg results on Sunday:

In Berkane, Morocco

Renaissance Berkane (MAR) 4 (El Helali 10, Naji 79, El Fahli 88-pen, 90+6) TP Mazembe (COD) 1 (Kinzumbi 11)

Berkane win 4-2 on aggregate

In Soweto, South Africa

Orlando Pirates (RSA 0 Al Ahly Tripoli (LBA) 1 (Arqoub 89)

Pirates win 2-1 on aggregate

Note: Final in Uyo, Nigeria, on 20 May

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