Matlaba injury time strike saves Bucs from blushes
Orlando Pirates scored in the dying minutes of the match to draw 1-1 against Al Ahly in the first-leg of the CAF Champions League final at the sold out Orlando Stadium on Saturday night.
Thabo Matlaba scored in the second half of stoppage time to level the score after Mohamed Aboutrika opened the scoring with a sublime free-kick in the early in the first half for the important away goal for the visitors. A draw with goals will give the seven time champions and current holders Al Ahly an advantage going to the second leg next Sunday in Cairo.
While Orlando Pirates will have a mountain to climb in Egypt next week, the history books shows that the South Africans have nothing to fear as the same thing happened when they won this competition in 1995 when they conceded two goals at home to Asec Mimosa in a 2-2 draw before they went to the Ivory Coast to win 1-0 and be crowned continental champions.
Orlando Pirates coach Roger de Sa started with his preferred 4-5-1 formation with Lennox Bacela playing as the lone striker up front while Lucky Lekgathi, who was back in the squad but only made the bench. Al Ahly, who travelled with a 23-man squad to South Africa, included the veteran Mohamed Aboutrika and Walled Soliman in their attacking line.
Orlando Pirates started the match the better side, with Becela having a shot from just outside the area but Sherif Ekrami gathered the ball with ease barely two minutes into the match. Then the former Bloemfontein Celtic striker came close again in the sixth minute when Happy Jele sent in a cross but Ekrami came off his line to block his shot and Tlou Segolela blasted the ball over the bar from the rebound.
Al Ahly then opened the scoring from their first chance in the 14th minute when they won a free-kick just outside the area after Ayanda Gcaba fouled Abdallah Said. Aboutrika stepped up and sent his curling effort past fully stretched Senzo Meyiwa and into the top corner to give the visitors the lead.
The home side almost found themselves levelled two minutes later when Daine Klate’s cross was almost turned in by Sayed Moawad who was lucky not to concede an own goal after his clearance went just wide of the goal with his goalkeeper out of his line.
Bacela tried his luck from range in the 18th minute but his effort was straight at Sharif Ekrami as the home side searched for the equaliser. The visitors were in the driving seat trough midway the half but the Buccaneers were also coming close and winning handful of corner kicks in the process.
Al Ahly almost scored the second goal through counter attack that saw Waleed Soliman unleash a long range strike that went a whisker wide of the right hand post of Senzo Meyiwa in the 33rd minute. Rooi Mahamusta, who scored in the semi-finals against Esperance for Orlando Pirates, saw his shot from range go wide of the post six minutes later.
The long range strikes looked to be in heads of the home side, as they failed to unlock the defence of the Red Devils of Egypt when Sifiso Myeni unleashed yet another shot four minutes before the break but his effort sailed over the bar.
Orlando Pirates goalkeeper Meyiwa made sure his side did not concede another goal going into half-time when he did well to parry away Ahmed Abdelzaher’s shot from inside the area as the visitors came threatening again.
Both teams came-out unchanged from the dressing rooms and Al Ahly almost added to their lead five minutes after the break when Mohamed Aboutrika placed a pin-point pass to Ahmed Abedelzaher. Abedelzaher shot past Meyiwa but he was judged to be offside.
Orlando Pirates created a chance of their own two minutes later when Klate’s low cross went across the face of goal after Bacela and Tlou Segolela failed to poke in from close range before Andile Jali tested Ekrami with low drive but the Egyptian shot stopper was equal to the task as he turned the ball out for a corner with a diving one-hand save in the 57th minute.
The visitors then brought on striker Dominique Da Silva in the 64th minute as Al Ahly searched for a goal that will make the job much easier for them in the second leg. Orlando Pirates pushed numbers forward mid-way through the second half but lacked the cutting edge in the final third.
Then Mpho Mokola was introduced in the place of Sifiso Myeni with 15 minutes to go as the home side needed some injection in their attack. Al Ahly had a chance to make it two when they won a free-kick in similar place to the first one they scored from but this one was a bit closer to the edge of the area with 11 minutes to play.
Aboutrika steeped up and tried his luck again from the set-piece but the ball was deflected wide by the wall of the Orlando Pirates. The visitors looked to park the bus when they brought on defender Sabri Rahil in the place of attacking minded Abourtika a minute later.
Orlando Pirates introduced Zambian striker Collins Mbesuma in the place of misfiring Becela in the 81st minute. When Al Ahly looked like they will take an away win to the second leg, Bucs defender Thabo Matlaba had other ideas in the second minute of stoppage time when his low long range shot beat Ekrami and into the far bottom corner to level the score and give Orlando Pirates hope going into the second leg.
Orlando Pirates line-up: Meyiwa, Jele ©, Matlaba, Mahamutsa, Gcaba, Jali, Klate, Segolela, Manyisa, Myeni (Makola 75th), Bacela (Mbesuma 81st),
Al Ahly line-up: Ekramy, Abedel-Fadil, Gomma ©, Soliman, Moawad, Said (Qinawi 90th), Abdelzaher ( Dy Silva 64th), Aboutrika ( Da Silva 80th) , Naguib, Fathi, Ashour.