Johannesburg - Orlando Pirates were held to a goalless draw by Esperance in the first leg of their CAF Champions League semifinal at Orlando Stadium on Saturday.
The Buccaneers dominated the match but found the Blood and Gold a superbly organised team that was difficult to break down. Scoring chances were few and far between for the Soweto giants, who only bothered the visitors’ goalkeeper late in the game.
A goalless draw is not the worst result in the first leg for Pirates, who can at least take solace in not having conceded an away goal. The second leg will take place in Tunisia in a fortnight's time.
Pirates coach Roger De Sa sent out a line-up clearly designed to dominate the midfield, with the trio of Andile Jali, Oupa Manyisa and Thandani Ntshumayelo in the engine room.
The result was that striker Lennox Bacela was left isolated, as neither of the wide men – Daine Klate and Sifiso Myeni – was really able to provide adequate support in attack.
Esperance threatened an early away goal, with Yannick N’Djeng looking particularly dangerous. He sent one long range effort just over the crossbar, while another forced a sharp save from Senzo Meyiwa.
Pirates lacked real urgency and penetration in their play and created only one good chance in the first half: a 36th minute cross from Klate found the head of Myeni, but his effort bounced just wide of the target.
The Buccaneers continued to dominate possession in the second half, but they rarely threatened goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifa. In fact, the Esperance glove man only made his first save in the 85th minute, easily catching an effort direct from a free kick by substitute Mpho Makola.
Four minutes later Ben Cherifa pulled off an excellent save to palm away a super long range hit from Thabo Matlaba that looked destined for the back of the net.
Orlando Pirates 0
Pirates: Meyiwa, Jele, Mahamutsa, Sangweni, Matlaba, Jali, Manyisa, Ntshumayelo (Makola 78’), Klate, Myeni (Segolela 63’), Bacela
Esperance: Ben Cherifa, Ben Mansour, Derbali, Chemmam, Dhaouadi, Mouelhi, Ragued, Afful, Darragi (Msakni 66’), N’Djeng (Akaichi 79’), Belaili (Ben Akremi 90+3’)