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Raja's Ben Malango vies for the ball with Orlando Pirates skipper Hlatshwayo


Raja on track for CAF Cup semi-finals despite end of winning run

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, May 17 – A six-match CAF Confederation Cup winning streak by Raja Casablanca ended on Sunday, but they remain on course for the semi-finals after forcing a 1-1 draw with Orlando Pirates in Soweto. 

Vincent Pule rounded goalkeeper Anas Zniti to give the South Africans a 39th-minute lead in the quarter-final first leg at an empty Orlando Stadium because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It was the first goal conceded by seven-time CAF title winners Raja in seven matches after clean sheets in every group game in the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League.

Raja levelled on 60 minutes when Democratic Republic of Congo-born Ben Malango latched on a long pass and fired past goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands.

A goalless draw in Casablanca next Sunday will suffice to take Raja through to the penultimate stage while Pirates must score for the first time in four away matches to have a chance of survival.

Raja won the Confederation Cup in 2018 while Pirates came closest to lifting the trophy three years earlier by reaching the final only to lose against Etoile Sahel of Tunisia.

In Cairo, Enyimba of Nigeria suffered a fifth consecutive away loss in the Confederation Cup when crumbling 4-1 to 2020 runners-up Pyramids of Egypt after scoring in the first minute.

Victor Mbaoma got the Nigerians off to a perfect start as they sought to snap an embarrassing away record that began with a playoff loss at fellow Nigerians Rivers United.

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– Dramatic impact –

Ramadan Sobhy levelled after 15 minutes and the introduction of Ibrahim Adel for the second half had a dramatic impact.

He created the second goal for Ahmed Bekhit within four minutes of the restart, then scored twice within nine minutes midway through the half.

Although Enyimba boast a 100 percent home record in the competition this season, all four victories have been by single-goal margins, and it is hard to imagine them eliminating Pyramids on aggregate.

Lambert Araina from Coton Sport of Cameroon became the six-goal leading scorer in the Confederation Cup this season after netting in the final minute to snatch a 1-0 win over Senegalese visitors Jaraaf.

Jaraaf had been reduced to 10 men after 37 minutes when Cheikh Kone was yellow carded a second time in an overly physical clash that produced 10 cautions and a red card.

The Dakar outfit were indebted to goalkeeper Pape Ndiaye, who repeatedly foiled dominant Coton with brilliant saves to keep the tie in the balance.

JS Kabylie of Algeria, whose last of six CAF titles came 19 years ago, are poised to reach the semi-finals after winning 1-0 away to record three-time Confederation Cup winners CS Sfaxien of Tunisia.

It was a tale of two penalties with Firas Chaouat missing for Sfaxien just before half-time and Rida Bensayah converting for Kabylie on 62 minutes.

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