Johannesburg — Orlando Pirates progressed to the CAF Confederation Cup final after securing a 2-1 aggregate win over Al Ahli Tripoli at a chilly Orlando Stadium on Sunday night.
In the final, which will be hosted at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo, Nigeria on Friday, Pirates will face either TP Mazembe or RS Berkane who were set to meet in the second leg of the other semi-final on Sunday night.
Pirates may have blown hold and cold in domestic football as they lost out on all the domestic trophies but they’ve been on superb form on the continent as they lost only once in the group stage.
Their dominance showed in the first leg of the semi-final as they beat Tripoli in their own backyard under unfamiliar conditions of an artificial pitch, thanks to goals from Innocent Maela and Goodman Mosele.
Winning this competition will guarantee Pirates’ second success in African football, having won the Champions League in 1995, but that doesn’t mean they’ll automatically qualify for continental football next season.
That’s why the Bucs will have to ensure that they at least finish in the top three next season by winning their last three games of the season and hope that their counterparts lose points in the process.
After bagging an invaluable win in Benghazi, Pirates came into this match knowing very well that their fate was in their hands if they were going to reach their first continental final since 2015.
The Bucs started well as they were making inroads into the final third of Tripoli. However, they had nothing to show for their dominance, with Happy Jele missing a sitter from close-range after a Deon Hotto set-piece.
However, it was the visitors that nearly got the breakthrough after referee Bakary Gasasama initially adjudged Happy Jele for a hand inside the penalty box in the first 20 minutes.
But after consultation with the Video Assistant Referee (VAR)system Gassama overturned his penalty decision, with the Sea Robbers getting a drop ball instead.
Tripoli continued to pile the pressure on the Buccaneers in search of the lead, but they couldn’t penetrate through as Richard Ofori also pulled off a smart save after a piledriver from wing-back Mahmoud Okashah.
With the progression of the first half, the two teams adopted a cautious approach as most of the action was in the middle of the park where Pirates’ duo Goodman Mosele and Ben Motshwari dictated play.
The Bucs, though, made a forced substitution in the first stanza as Abel Mabaso was pulled off and replaced by Siphesihle Ndlovu after sustaining an injury.
The Bucs started the second half on a high note. So much so that they should have found the lead after Thembinkosi Lorch put Kwame Peprah through, only for the Ghanaian forward to hit the side netting with a hard and low shot.
Pirates continued to dominate possession, making some great build-up play against the run of play as they surged into Tripoli’s final third, but their poor finishing let them down.
A late long range strike goal from Ali Abu Arqoub ensured that Tripoli got a consolation goal but Pirates and their somewhat 5000 spectators that braved the chilly Johannesburg weather condition were indeeded “The Happy People” in the end they reached the continental final.