The home crowd had to wait until way past the end of the match to celebrate a goal. Thabo Matlaba literally moved from zero to hero when, in the 93rd minute, he picked up a loose ball near the centre of the park, sneaked it close to the edge of the goal area and unleashed a thunderbolt which went just wide of the diving attempt of Ekramy who was in goal for the Egyptians. This sent the crowd, some of whom had taken a disappointed early exit, into a frenzy of excitement and revived hope.
By all accounts, this was an evenly balanced match which was almost decided by Al Ahly’s early strike. Orlando Pirates played a very disciplined game with a lot of short accurate passes which could have unnerved a lesser team but the seasoned players from Egypt held on and restricted any creativity that the South African champions may have shown. Not only that but the Egyptians showed their superiority as early as the fourteenth minute through their chief playmaker who has announced his intention to retire from international football. From a free kick outside the penalty area, Aboutrika let loose a thunderbolt that left the Pirates goalie wondering what happened.
Al Ahly had an opportunity to increase their tally. Walid Soliman latched onto a brilliant pass from the middle of the park and quickly slotted it home. However, luck was not on their side as the assistant referee on that side adjudged that he was in an offside position and the ensuing goal was disallowed.
About five minutes later, Andile Jali let fly a grounder that Ekramy, in goals for Al Ahly did well to parry for a corner kick. From this point on, the match continued to swing from one end to the other with most of the attacking coming from Pirates and one or two counter attacks from the North Africans. This led to frustration on the part of Orlando Pirates. So when the goal from Matlaba came, it was not only a relief but also a revitalization of hope. This is reflected in no where else than in the post match interview. Says Roger De Sa
“We got a late one in there, now we have something to play for. I believe we can score there,” said Pirates coach Roger de Sa. This clearly summarizes the the size of task that face Orlando Pirates.