Orlando Pirates’ hopes of taking control of Group B in the CAF Confederation Cup were dashed on Saturday afternoon when they were beaten 2-1 by Egyptian giants Zamalek at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.
The Buccaneers took the lead against the run of play in the second half when Lehlohonolo Majoro opened the scoring, but then conceded two well-taken goals to the White Knights.
The result sees the Egyptian giants move to six points at the top of the mini log, with the South Africans dropping to second spot on three points. CS Sfaxien and AC Leopards are tied on one point apiece after their 1-1 draw in Tunisia last night.
After a bright start from Zamalek, it was Pirates who almost claimed the opening goal as early as the third minute. Thabo Rakhale provided a low cross from the right of the box and Thamsanqa Gabuza directed a close-range shot onto the near post.
The Buccaneers looked the more fluent of the two teams in the first half, but they were unable to really test Zamalek goalkeeper Ahmed El Shenawy, who only had a couple of straightforward saves to make.
The Egyptians were restricted to counter attacking forays and long-range efforts in the first 45 minutes, none of which called young Bucs ‘keeper Brighton Mhlongo into action.
However, striker Basem Morsi had two clear chances in the early minutes of the second half, first dragging a shot wide with only Mhlongo to beat, the heading off target when found free in the box from a corner kick.
Just before the hour mark, the Soweto side had their best chance since hitting the post early on, as Issa Sarr got on the end of a great free kick delivery from Kermit Erasmus, only to put his glancing header over the top.
Just as Zamalek looked to be taking charge of the game, Pirates broke the deadlock against the run of play. Substitute Lehlohonolo Majoro scored with his first touch, slicing home Sifiso Myeni’s perfectly-weighted pass in the 68th minute.
Yet the home side’s lead was short lived. Just four minutes later Morsi teed up Maroaf Yusuf, who crashed home a fiercely-struck left-footed effort from inside the box to make it 1-1.
And in the 84th minute the White Knights claimed the lead, with substitute Mustapha Fathi, who had earlier tested Mhlongo with a fierce shot, beating the ‘keeper with a beauty of curler from his left-foot.
Pirates nearly forced an equaliser in the dying minutes, with the North Africans indebted to El Shenawy for making two world class saves to deny a long range shot from Thabo Matlaba and a goal-bound header from Majoro.
Pirates: Mhlongo, Mahamutsa, Jele, Nyauza, Matlaba, Sarr, Manyisa, Rakhale (Makola 70’), Myeni, Erasmus (Majoro 67’), Gabuza (Masuku 85’)
Zamalek: El-Shenawy, Tolba, Ali Gabr, Kofi, Samir, Salah, Maarouf, Tawfik, Hefny (Hamed 79’), Eid (Fathi 63’), Morsi (Farag 87’)