Pirates ease past Light Stars in CAF Champions League return

This was the first time Pirates were playing continental football since the 2015 season when they competed in the Confederations Cup final.

Orlando Pirates players celebrate a goal during their CAF Champions League match against Light Stars at the Orlando Stadium on 28 November 2018. Picture: @orlandopirates/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - Orlando Pirates returned to CAF Champions League football in fine fashion by thrashing Light Stars from the Seychelles 5-1 in their preliminary round first leg encounter at the Orlando Stadium.

This was the first time that Pirates were playing continental football since the 2015 season when they competed in the Confederations Cup final and before then they also were involved in the Champions League final in 2013. They looked like they were relishing the opportunity of being back in the competition again as they pressurised their lesser experienced opponents.

But with all of Pirates’ early pressure and enterprise, it was Light Stars who opened the scoring through striker Mario Ravo, who received a beautiful defence-splitting pass from midfield and dinked the ball past Jackson Mabokgwane in the Pirates goal to take the lead.

The lead didn’t last long as Thabo Qalinge equalised from point-blank range as Pirates began to find their rhythm again. One became two in quick time as Zambian international Augustine Mulenga gave the home side the lead 10 minutes later.

Mpho Makola, who was deputising for Happy Jele as the captain on the night, scored a glorious freekick that cannoned into the top right-hand corner for a 3-1 lead just before the half-time whistle.

There was late drama in the dying minutes of the first half as Pirates thought they had grabbed a fourth goal. Kuda Mahachi’s left foot shot found the back of the net but it ricocheted off Mulenga who was in an offside position but the nearside assistant referee didn’t raise his flag, only for the referee to call for a hand ball on Mulenga and the goal was disallowed.

The Ghosts of Orlando were not as fluent and free-flowing in the second half as they were in the first but they did manage to create a few goalscoring opportunities which they failed to convert. Then in the 93rd minute of the game Justin Shonga curled in a beautiful freekick to make it 4-1.

Seconds later Linda Mntambo made it 5-1 for his first ever goal for Pirates and they take a commanding lead into the second leg in Seychelles next week.