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Libyan clubs too good for Orlando Pirates and Sfaxien in CAF Cup

Johannesburg (AFP) – Libyan clubs Al Ittihad and Al Ahly Tripoli scored notable CAF Confederation Cup group victories on Sunday over African title winners Orlando Pirates of South Africa and CS Sfaxien of Tunisia.

Ittihad edged Pirates 3-2 in a thrilling first match of a Benghazi double-header before Ahly survived a late scare to defeat Sfaxien 2-1 in the eastern coastal city.

Former CAF Champions League and CAF Super Cup winners Pirates took an unbeaten record this season in the African equivalent of the Europa League on a journey from the bottom to the top of the continent.

They also had not conceded in the Confederation Cup campaign, but that record lasted only a further 14 minutes before centre-back Sanad al Warfali fired a free-kick into the corner of the net.

There were three more goals before half-time on an artificial pitch with Pirates right-back Bandile Shandu twice levelling and Muad Eisay scoring the second Ittihad goal.

The first Shandu goal was a superb long-range effort that flew into the far corner of the net past Ittihad captain and goalkeeper Mohamed Abukhres.

But it paled in comparison with the match-winner on 53 minutes from Omar al Khouja, whose looping 35-yard half-volley gave Pirates goalkeeper Siyabonga Mpontshane no chance.

Ittihad, Pirates and JS Saoura of Algeria have three points each in Group B after two matchdays and Royal Leopard of Eswatini are pointless, but have a match in hand against the Libyans.

– Tense finish –

A sixth-minute Chadi Hammami own goal put record three-time Confederation Cup winners Sfaxien on the back foot against Ahly and they fell further behind when Saleh al Taher scored soon after half-time.

Aymen Harzi halved the deficit from an 87th-minute penalty to create a tense finish for the hosts, but they survived to lie second in Group A behind Pyramids of Egypt.

Libya are the only north African country never to win a CAF club competition, with Ahly coming closest when they reached the 1984 final of the now defunct African Cup Winners Cup.

The Tripoli outfit were due to meet their Egyptian namesakes, Al Ahly, but then Libyan ruler Moamer Kadhafi forbad them from playing because of a political standoff with their neighbours.

Recent South African signing Fagrie Lakay scored in each half as Pyramids, runners-up and semi-finalists in the last two editions, defeated bottom club Zanaco of Zambia 2-0 in Lusaka.

Al Masry completed a good day for Egypt by defeating five-time African champions TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo 2-0 in Alexandria, and replaced them as Group C leaders.

Simba of Tanzania top Group D after coming from behind to draw 1-1 with US Gendarmerie Nationale of Niger in Niamey, where Ghanaian Bernard Morrison nodded the equaliser eight minutes from time.

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