Orlando Pirates surrendered top spot in Group B after suffering a 2-0 defeat to Esperance in their Caf Champions League clash on Tuesday afternoon, writes DYLAN APPOLIS.
The Buccaneers came into this encounter after playing to a thrilling 1-1 draw against Soweto rivals Kaizer Chiefs at the FNB Stadium over the weekend.
Meanwhile, the Tunisian side defeated Tataouine 1-0 in their Tunisian Ligue Professionnelle 1 encounter last week Thursday.
The two sides previously met a week ago, but could not be separated as the game ended goalless at the Orlando Stadium.
Esperance showed their intent early on and took the lead as early as the 15th minute when Anice Badri unleashed a venomous free kick to find the net.
The Buccaneers grew into the game as they began to gain momentum that saw them gain more possession on the ball.
The defending champions nearly doubled their lead just before the break, but Pirates keeper Wayne Sandilands made a great save to deny Ghaylene Chaalali’s goal-bound shot.
However, Esperance managed to hold on to their lead over Pirates as the game went into the half-time interval.
The hosts picked up where they left off in the first half as they continued to put pressure on the Buccaneers’ defence.
Esperance nearly doubled their lead minutes later, but Sandilands made a diving save to flick Yahoubi’s header on to the post before the ball went out for a corner.
Sandilands once again came to his side’s rescue in the 55th minute when he got down well to smother Khnissi’s effort in a one-on-one situation.
Justin Shonga nearly made an immediate impact moments after coming off the bench, but fired his volley high and wide of the target after 64 minutes.
Fousseny Coulibaly should have extended his side’s lead three minutes later, but the midfielder’s header could not bypass Sandilands.
Esperance continued to pressure Pirates as Belaili cut inside Ndengane before firing at the far post. His effort was well-struck and it had Sandilands at full stretch as it whistled past the top corner.
Pirates were given an opportunity to level matters from a free kick, but Shonga blazed his effort wide of the target.
Esperance’s persistence paid off as they eventually doubled their lead in the 88th minute when Haythem Jouini was picked out by Badri before volleying his effort home from close range.
Pirates should have reduced the deficit in stoppage time, but Vincent Pule’s effort lacked fire power to beat Rami Jridi.
However, Esperance held on to their lead over Pirates until the final whistle to claim all three points at the Stade El Menzah.
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