Pirates sweep toward CAF Cup final, teen Bakata is Mazembe hero

·3-min read
Orlando Pirates scorer Innocent Maela (L) pictured playing for South Africa aginst Ghana in a 2022 World Cup qualifier in Johannesburg. (AFP/Phill Magakoe) (Phill Magakoe)

Innocent Maela and Goodman Mosele scored inside 30 minutes as Orlando Pirates of South Africa swept to a 2-0 win at Al Ahly Tripoli of Libya on Sunday in a CAF Confederation Cup semi-final first leg.

The Soweto Buccaneers were too organised in defence and too clinical in attack for the hosts and are well placed to reach the final after the return match next Sunday.

In the other first leg, an added-time goal from 19-year-old John Bakata snatched a 1-0 home win for TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo over Renaissance Berkane of Morocco.

Pirates were sunk 3-2 by another Libyan club, Al Ittihad, when they visited the north African nation three months ago, with goalkeeper Siyabonga Mpontshane taking much of the blame.

Mpontshane subsequently lost his place and Ghanaian Richard Ofori, available after a lengthy injury absence, has bolstered the defence.

Ofori was rarely troubled at the Martyrs of February Stadium in coastal city Benghazi -- a venue used by all Libyan clubs because the national stadium in Tripoli was damaged during years of civil conflict.

At the other end of the artificial pitch, Ahly captain and goalkeeper Muhammad Nashnoush was constantly in action as Pirates showed no inclination to defend, even when two goals ahead.

Pirates attacked from the kick-off and were ahead within eight minutes when Nashnoush parried a Kwame Peprah header only for perfectly-positioned Maela to nod the loose ball into the net.

- Floodlights fail -

Peprah was also the architect of the second goal on 29 minutes as his cross found Mosele, who scored with a looping shot into the corner of the net.

The end of the match was delayed as the floodlights failed three times in quick succession, but there was no denying Pirates an easier-than-expected victory.

In Lubumbashi, substitute Bakata struck on 95 minutes in the southern Congolese mining hub, nodding a Glody Likonza cross past goalkeeper Hamza Hamiani.

Mazembe, seeking a record-equalling third Confederation Cup title after winning the 2016 and 2017 finals, dominated the match without translating their superiority into goals.

The home side had 26 goal attempts, but only seven on target, and winning the corner count 16-0 had no impact before Bakata broke the deadlock.

Mazembe coach Franck Dumas replaced all three forwards during the second half and the gamble finally paid off with the match seemingly heading for a goalless stalemate.

Constantly under pressure, 2020 Confederation Cup winners Berkane had five players yellow-carded as they frequently committed fouls and wasted time.

History favours Mazembe reaching the final as the five previous clubs who established 1-0 first-leg leads in Confederation Cup semi-finals all qualified.

Mazembe are the equal second most successful club in CAF competitions with Zamalek of Egypt, winning 11 titles, including the marquee Champions League five times.

The Confederation Cup is the African equivalent of the European second-tier competition the Europa League.

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