It was a chaotic start to the second leg of the CAF Confederation Cup quarter-final encounter in Casablanca between Raja and Orlando Pirates, but excellent goalkeeping from Raja’s Anas Zniti prevented the Sea Robbers from obtaining an early away goal and set the stage for the Moroccan side’s 4-0 (5-1 aggregate) victory. The Buccaneers will look back at missed opportunities and a defensive meltdown as the cause of their downfall to the competition favorites, who will face group stage foes Pyramids once again in the semi-finals.
A promising start from the visitors put Raja on their heels early on. Fierce high pressure from the Bucs resulted in a Raja turnover and Deon Hotto set up Siphesihle Ndlovu for a 1-on-1 against keeper Zniti, but the Morocco international stood firm to deny Ndlovu and then recovered excellently to slide over in order to save Vincent Pule’s rebound. While Pirates were still questioning how they were unable to find the opener, Raja’s Omar Arjoune sent in a cross to find Ben Malango, whose brilliant header combined power and placement to beat Pirates keeper Wayne Sandilands just after the 6 minute mark.
Pirates kept on pushing and desperately craved a reward for being the better side in the opening 15 minutes. Pule did well to keep the ball in play and laid the ball back for Thembinkosi Lorch, who sent in a low cross that was met by Innocent Maela but the defender side footed his effort just wide from 4 yards out. In the 15th minute Pule sent in Hotto with a well weighted through ball but once again it was Zniti who came up big 1-v-1 before scrambling to watch the rebound go wide.
Raja found their focus and let their attacking star power punish the South African team for their wastefulness. A defensive giveaway by the Bucs saw Raja star midfielder Soufiane Rahimi execute a brilliant touch to get by a defender and create space on the left flank, the African Nations Championship Man of the Tournament patiently waiting before picking out Zakaria El Wardi with a pinpoint low cross to finish from 6 yards out.
Pirates were too eager to make up the deficit and this led to a defensive meltdown that ruled them out of the tie completely. A Pirates shot from distance was blocked in the 31st minute and Malango quickly collected at midfield before sending in Rahimi behind the exposed defense. Rahimi displayed his trademark composure once again by dribbling in and drawing Sandilands out before sending a slick chip shot over the helpless keeper.
The visitors then completed a defensive disaster of a first half five minutes later when Sandilands’ risky short goal kick led to another Pirates turnover. Rahimi collected and passed to Malango, who used the running Rahimi to juke by Thulani Hlatshwayo and complete Sandilands’ humiliation by providing a chip shot of his own to beat the former Bafana Bafana member.
Raja’s victory was complete by the time the halftime whistle came and there was no hope of a comeback for Pirates by that point as the game settled into a routine kickaround in the second half. Highlights are below.