Orlando Pirates saw their 27-game unbeaten run across all competitions come to an end on Tuesday afternoon when they were defeated 2-0 by Esperance de Tunis in a CAF Champions League Group B match at Stade El Menzah.
The Blood and Gold go top of the standings with eight points from four matches, while the Buccaneers drop to second with five points and could be overhauled by Horoya AC, who host FC Platinum in a later match.
Esperance looked dangerous from the early minutes, particularly from set pieces. They duly claimed the lead on 16 minutes through a dead-ball situation, with Anice Badri able to turn home Youcef Belaili’s free kick delivery at the far post.
The Tunisian side very nearly added a second soon after, with goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands saving from Fousseny Coulibaly, while the South African team also needed a heroic clearance off the line as Badri almost claimed a second.
Sandilands made further saves through the first half as Bucs clung on to ensure they were just 1-0 down at the interval despite being comfortably outplayed by the Blood and Gold.
Pirates sought to change things up in the second half, introducing Thamsanqa Gabuza and Justin Shonga off the bench, yet it was Esperance who continued to dominate and Sandilands remained a busy man, keeping out further efforts on goal from Badri and Taha Khenissi.
With the score only 1-0, Pirates kept up hope of a comeback and they nearly claimed an equaliser in the 85th minute when Shonga sent a shot direct from a free kick just wide of the target.
Yet Esperance killed off the game in the penultimate minute of regulation time, with Badri’s lobbed cross from the left turned home by substitute Haythem Jouini to complete the 2-0 score line.
The teams will return to Champions League action on March 8 when Pirates host FC Platinum and Esperance welcome Horoya to Tunis.
Esperance de Tunis (1) 2 (Badri 16’, Jouini 89’)
Orlando Pirates 0
Esperance: Jridi, Dhaouadi, Coulibaly, Yaakoubi, Derbali (Mbarki 90+2’), Kom, Chaalali (Rebai 81’), Ben Mohamed, Badri, Belaili, Khenissi (Jouini 73’)
Pirates: Sandilands, Mbekile (Mahachi 79’), Ndengane, Jele, Maela, Mako (Gabuza 46’)Pule, Mntambo (Shonga 63’), Motshwari, Lorch, Mulenga