The champions of Africa will be crowned this weekend in Cairo as Orlando Pirates travel to Egypt to play Al Ahly in the second leg of the CAF Champions League final. A dramatic last-gasp goal from Thabo Matlaba earned Pirates a 1-1 draw with the defending champions in the first leg at Orlando Stadium on Saturday night. The final promises to be an enthralling encounter between the kings of the CAF Champions League and a side which is desperate to earn their second star.
Roger De Sa believes his team can win even though Al Ahly hold the advantage and he is right in saying that as the Buccaneers have faced the CAF Champions three times in this season’s competition and are yet to taste defeat.
However, Al Ahly are favourites to take home an eighth continental title of their own. Pirates’ 3-0 win during the group stages against Al Ahly in Egypt was in the tiny seaside resort of El Gouna, behind closed doors. Now they will play at the Arab Contractors Stadium in Cairo which seats 30 000. It isn’t the larger Cairo International Stadium the Egyptians wanted but Ahly will still have a good number of their fanatical supporters behind them.
Al Ahly were also going through problems with some key players missing at the time and the match was played during the month of Ramadan when players were fasting and their fitness levels fell short that hot afternoon. Al Ahly and Pharaohs veteran Mohamed Aboutrika, who is retiring at the end of this year, marked his final away game in a competition he has already won four times with a quite brilliant free-kick, one that seems to have put Al Ahly on course for another title. No doubt he will be determined to go out with a bang, in front of his adoring home fans on Sunday.
The unbelievable character Orlando Pirates displayed in the Champions League — shown again in the dying-seconds equaliser against Ahly in the first leg — means you cannot write Bucs off. Under the guidance of Roger De Sa Pirates have shown their tenacity and grit, putting in big performances when they were most needed. They will be hoping for improved fortunes in front of goal as they dominated play in the first leg but couldn’t score until stoppage time.
Pirates will be confident after overcoming the odds in defeating Esperance in order to garner a spot in the final, drawing 1-1 on aggregate and winning due to an away goal from Rooi Mahamutsa in Tunisia. Andile Jali and Oupa Manyisa will play huge roles in dictating the tempo of the match with many looking to Lenox Bacela to find the back of the net.
The away goal conceded to Al Ahly means a 0-0 draw will be enough for the Red Devils to lift their eighth Champions League trophy. Pirates need a 1-1 draw to go to penalties, while a win or any score draw from 2-2 or higher will bring the trophy back to Bucs’ cabinet. Another draw would mean these teams would have drawn three times in four meetings which seems unlikely. The win could go either way but Pirates are tipped for an inspired performance to claim their second star.