Orlando Pirates recover to crush Eswatini part-timers in CAF Cup

Orlando Pirates defender Happy Jele (L) scored and conceded an own goal as his club walloped Royal Leopard of Eswatini 6-2 in the CAF Confederation Cup on February 27.

Orlando Pirates defender Happy Jele (L) scored and conceded an own goal as his club walloped Royal Leopard of Eswatini 6-2 in the CAF Confederation Cup on February 27. Creator: STRINGER

Orlando Pirates captain Happy Jele scored and conceded an own goal as they crushed Eswatini part-timers Royal Leopard 6-2 on Sunday after a disastrous start to their CAF Confederation Cup group match.

After a much criticised away loss to Al Ittihad of Libya last weekend, the Soweto Buccaneers fell two goals behind within eight minutes of the kick-off in northeastern South African city Mbombela.

Jele deflected a shot into his own net and Thabiso Mokenkoane doubled the lead by nodding a cross past Pirates goalkeeper Siyabonga Mpontshane, who bore the brunt of the blame for the defeat by Ittihad.

Another own goal, this time by Machawe Dlamini, halved the deficit midway through the opening half and slack defending allowed Bandile Shandu and Ghanaian Kwame Peprah to score before half-time for Pirates.

It was one-way traffic toward Leopard goalkeeper Phephisani Msibi in the second half and Jele, Kabelo Dlamini and Zimbabwean Terrence Dzvukamanja netted for a decisive victory.

The heavy loss for the Eswatini police team came after they caused one of the biggest shocks in the 18 years of the Confederation Cup by eliminating JS Kabylie of Algeria, the 2021 runners-up.

It did not help their cause that they were forced to host Pirates in South Africa because their home ground does not meet international standards.

Leopard play Al Ittihad in a rearranged fixture in Mbombela next Sunday before tackling Pirates again on March 13 in the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League.

Victory lifted 2015 Confederation Cup runners-up Pirates to the top of Group B with six points, JS Saoura of Algeria and Ittihad have four each and Leopard are pointless.

Saoura came from behind to draw 1-1 with Ittihad in Benghazi as Mohamed Ouis cancelled before half-time the lead Mohamed Zubya had given the home side.

Egyptian club Pyramids, runners-up and semi-finalists in the last two editions, stretched a winning streak in qualifying and group matches to six by pipping Tunisian visitors CS Sfaxien 1-0 in Cairo.

The only goal of the Group A showdown came in the third minute of added time from Ali Gabr, the former West Bromwich Albion centre-back.

Pyramids lead by three points from Al Ahly Tripoli of Libya, who also relied on defenders for goals with centre-back Ahmed el Trbi and full-back Mohamed el Monir netting in a 2-0 win over Zanaco from Zambia.

Moroccan outfit Renaissance Berkane, who beat Pyramids in the 2020 final, replaced Simba as Group D pacesetters by beating the Tanzanian visitors 2-0 via goals from Adama Ba and Charki el Bahri.

Berkane have six points and Simba were joined on four by Gendarmerie Nationale of Niger, who upset former African champions ASEC Mimosas of the Ivory Coast 2-0 in Niamey.

There was also a change at the top of Group C with TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo edging Coton Sport of Cameroon 1-0 in Lubumbashi to replace Al Masry of Egypt.

Masry fell 1-0 away to Confederation Cup group debutants Otoho Oyo, whose late winner from Roland Okouri saw the Congo Brazzaville side climb from last place to second.

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