Etoile du Sahel are the new CAF Confederation Cup champions after defeating Orlando Pirates 1-0 (2-1 on aggregate) in the second leg of the final at the Olympic Stadium in Sousse on Sunday afternoon.
The Tunisians scored the only goal through Ammar Jemal (the same scorer as the first leg in Soweto last weekend which ended 1-1) and then put up a superb defensive display to protect their narrow advantage.
Needing an away goal after drawing 1-1 in the first leg in Soweto last week, the Buccaneers were unable to find the back of the net against Etoile’s impenetrable defence, though they can take pride from a performance in which they were arguably the better team through the 90 minutes.
Etoile settled the quicker of the two teams, but it was Pirates who created the first clear chance, with Thamsanqa Gabuza sending Thabo Rakhale through on goal on the right of the penalty area, but the winger scuffed his shot wide of the far post in the 18th minute.
Shortly thereafter the home side suffered a major blow when they were forced to substitute leading goal scorer Baghdad Bounedjah due to injury, with the Algerian suffering under a heavy challenge from Ayanda Gcaba.
Nonetheless, Etoile shrugged off that setback and claimed the lead midway through the first half. A left-flank cross was deflected toward his own goal by Happy Jele and goalkeeper Felipe Ovono was unable to handle the ball cleanly, allowing Ammar Jemal to poke the ball home from close range.
The hosts moved up a gear after taking the lead, playing with confidence and intelligence to force the Buccaneers onto the back foot, but they were unable to add to their advantage, leaving the score 1-0 in their favour at the break.
Pirates, playing with a strong wind at their backs, were the better team in the second half, with Etoile prepared to sit back and look to soak up whatever the visitors threw at them. It was a risky strategy from the hosts, but their excellent defence held up and frustrated the South African side.
Bucs’ only real threat at goal arrived late in the game when substitute Menzi Masuku sent a shot at goal direct from a free kick, but veteran goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi made an excellent save to keep his side in the ascendancy.
Etoile du Sahel (1) 1 (Ammar Jemal 24’)
Orlando Pirates 0
Etoile du Sahel won 2-1 on aggregate
Etoile: Aymen Mathlouthi, Hamdi Naguez, Ammar Jemal, Zied Boughattas, Marouane Tej (Mehdi Saada 84’), Aymen Trabelsi, Franck Kom, Hamza Lahmar, Alaya Brigui, Mohamed Msakni, Baghdad Bounedjah (Diogo Acosta Da Silva 20’ [Rami Bedoui 90+3’])
Pirates: Felipe Ovono, Happy Jele, Ayanda Gcaba, Siyabonga Sangweni, Thabo Matlaba, Thabo Rakhale (Sifiso Myeni 71’), Lehlogonolo Masalesa, Gift Motupa, Mpho Makola (Menzi Masuku 71’), Kermit Erasmus, Thamsanqa Gabuza