Orlando Pirates took a step toward qualifying for their first CAF Confederation Cup final when they defeated Egyptian giants Al Ahly 1-0 in the first leg of the semifinal tie at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Saturday evening.
An early goal from striker Thamsanqa Gabuza, who provided a deft finish, took the Buccaneers to victory, though they are only half-way through their contest with the competition’s defending champions, who will look to turn the tie around in the return game in Suez next Sunday evening.
After a subdued opening, Ahly’s Abdallah El Said had the first shot in anger but he scuffed his effort wide of the target in the sixth minute.
Three minutes later Bucs claimed the lead, with Kermit Erasmus finding space down the left flank before providing a cross to the near post which was deflected past goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy by Thamsanqa Gabuza.
Pirates almost doubled their lead in the 20th minute when in-form midfielder Mpho Makola sent a shot on goal direct from a free kick, but Ekramy pulled off an excellent save.
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Ahly came within inches of claiming an equaliser on the half hour mark when a deflected shot from John Antwi was tipped onto his crossbar by Pirates goalkeeper Felipe Ovono, before Ntsikelelo Nyauza cleared the rebound when Abdallah El Said looked destined to score into the unguarded net.
The Egyptian side made a tactical change at the start of the second half, replacing right-back Mohamed Hany with striker Malick Evouna. As a result, Ahly dominated the second half and looked a far more dangerous prospect in attack.
However, the Buccaneers held firm in defence, with Rooi Mahamutsa particularly excellent. The home side did not miss the influential Siyabonga Sangweni and Happy Jele, both of whom were suspended for the match.
Pirates were able to see out the remainder of the game, with Ahly eventually running out of steam and ideas as they searched for a way back into the game.
However, the Red Devils will be a far more difficult opponent on their own pitch in the second leg.
Orlando Pirates (1) 1 (Gabuza 9’)
Al Ahly 0
Pirates: Ovono, Nyauza, Mahamutsa, Gcaba, Matlaba, Masalesa, Ntshumayelo (Sarr 66’), Makola, Myeni, Gabuza, Erasmus (Majoro 71’)
Ahly: Sherif Ekramy, Mohamed Hany (Malick Evouna 46’), Mohamed Naguib, Saad Samir, Sabry Rahil, Ahmed Fathy, Hossam Ashour, Moamen Zakaria (Saleh Gomaa 71’), Abdallah El Said, Ramadan Sobhi, John Antwi (Amr Gamal 81’)