Daniel Mothowagae looks at what Orlando Pirates must overcome to qualify for the CAF Confederation Cup final in Egypt tonight
Pirates coach Eric Tinkler said: “We’re going there with a 1-0 lead and we need to go look for that away goal. But we need to get the back door closed,” he warned.
When Bucs last met Al Ahly in Egypt, they took a 1-1 draw to Cairo and lost the return leg of that Champions League final 2-0 two years ago.
No reserve goalkeeper
The Red Devils are likely to target Bucs goalkeeper Felipe Ovono with knocks during aerial-ball situations because they know the South Africans do not have a registered backup player in the position.
Brighton Mhlongo was ruled out with a knee injury in August.
“There is no need to worry about the keeper – Evono is experienced, and we’ll finish the tournament with him,” said last week’s captain, defender Rooi Mahamutsa.
Fans or empty stadium?
Pirates left the country on Thursday morning still uncertain about whether they would face Al Ahly behind closed doors or not.
The Egyptian giant’s fans, notorious for launching smoke flares and pointing laser torches at visiting teams, have been banned from attending the game.
The Egyptian interior ministry called for the ban after fan troubles at Al Ahly and Zamalek’s group-stage matches.
Al Ahly frantically tried to convince the government to lift the ban on their troublesome fans, but by Friday, it was still standing firm.
Nonetheless, Tinkler said his side was prepared for any eventuality.
Some saw the appointment of Algerian match officials for this crunch semifinal as a disadvantage for Pirates, as they came from north Africa and might be biased.
However, former Bucs coach Roger De Sá believed otherwise.
“It’s okay – they [the Egyptians and the Algerians] don’t like each other [because of inter-regional rivalries],” said the man who guided Pirates to the 2013 CAF Champions League silver medal.
Referee Mehdi Abid Charef will be assisted by compatriots Abdelhak Etchiali and Mokrane Gourari.
Abid Charef, who has been a Fifa referee since 2011, officiated in Al Ahly’s 2-1 loss to Club Africain of Tunisia during the play-off round of this competition in June.
The 34-year-old also officiated the first leg of Bafana Bafana’s 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Sudan in Khartoum last year.