The Star Late Edition
Casablanca will be happier than Pirates
A 59TH minute goal from Ben Malango earned Raja Casablanca a vital 1-1 draw with Orlando Pirates in their Confederation Cup quarterfinal first-leg clash at Orlando Stadium yesterday.
There is no doubt that that the team from Morocco will be the happier team with the outcome. Not only did they avoid defeat, but they also scored a vital away goal.
Malango was gifted the ball following a defensive lapse in concentration by Nathaniel Nyauza, with Pirates defender Bongani Sam also 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 situation after taking advantage of lax defending by 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 clearcut opportunities for much of it, although Pirates did dominate possession.
Wayde Jooste appeared to be causing the Raja defence problems in the early part of the game.
Jooste earned his team three setpieces in quick succession between the second and fifth minutes, although the Buccaneers were unable to capitalise on them.
Jooste looked to have caught Raja goalkeeper Anas Zniti off-guard in the seventh minute, but the 32-yearold was alert to the danger.
The first shot of the game for either team only came in the 28th minute as Soufiane Rahimi struck a tame effort towards goal, which was easily collected by Pirates keeper Wayne Sandilands.
Pirates captain Thulani ‘Tyson’ Hlatshwayo 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 the home side ahead again in the 64th minute but his effort lacked the necessary power to trouble the opposition goalkeeper.
Paseka Mako had a chance to win the game for the Buccaneers at the death, but Zniti did what he had to do to clear.
Pirates will have their work cut out for them going into the second leg, which will take place at the
Stade Mohammed V Stadium in Morocco this Sunday.
Raja will certainly be the favourites to advance to the semifinals.
They previously won the Confederation Cup three years ago, while 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 semis.
Then again, anything can happen in cup football.