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Royal Leopards v Orlando Pirates Match Report, 28/2/22

2 - 6
M. Mabelesa (6)
T. Mokenkoane (8)
M. Dlamini (20 og)
B. Shandu (38)
K. Peprah (45+1)
H. Jele (57)
K. Dlamini (60)
T. Dzvukamanja (80)
Mbombela Stadium
Royal Leopards 2-6 Orlando Pirates: Impressive Bucs consolidate Caf Confederation Cup Group B top spot
7:50 am AEDT 28/2/22
Deon Hotto, Orlando Pirates & Muzi Dlamini, Royal Leopards, February 2022
Deon Hotto caught the eye with his creativity on the night - providing three assists as the Soweto giants showed character against Ingwe Mabalabala

Orlando Pirates secured a come-from-behind 6-2 win over Royal Leopards in a Caf Confederation Cup Group B match which was played in Nelspruit on Sunday night.

Mzwanele Mabelesa and Thabiso Mokenkoane handed the Eswatini champions, who are winless in Group B, a surprise two-goal lead, but the PSL giants responded by scoring six times through Machawe Dlamini (own-goal), Bandile Shandu, Kabelo Dlamini, Kwame Peprah, Happy Jele and Terrence Dzvukamanja. 

Bucs were playing this 'away match' on South African soil after Leopards couldn’t get a suitable venue for this clash as per Caf rules, hence they opted for Mbombela Stadium which is a two hour-drive from Eswatini. Thabang Monare, Dlamini and Peprah made their return to the starting line-up as the Pirates technical team made three changes to the team which faced and lost to Al-Ittihad away in a Group B clash in Libya last weekend.

The Buccaneers were stunned by Ingwe Mabalabala, who grabbed two quick goals within the first seven minutes of the match to take a 2-0 lead. Mabelesa broke the deadlock with a deflected shot to hand Leopards a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute, before South African striker Mokenkoane made it 2-0 with a great header two minutes later.

Pirates responded by controlling the match and dominating it. With pressure mounting on his side, Machawe Dlamini netted an unfortunate own goal to make it 2-1 as the defender attempted to block Kabelo Dlamini's shot in the 20th minute. 

Parity was restored in the 37th minute when Shandu turned home Deon Hotto's cross to make it 2-2. It was the attack-minded right-back's fourth goal in the group stage and sixth across all competitions as he continues to enjoy his debut season at the Houghton-based side.

Pirates deservedly took the lead for the first time in first-half stoppage time. This time it was Peprah, who found the back of the net as the Ghana under-23 international headed home Hotto's cross from close range to hand the visitors a 3-2 lead heading into the half-time break.

A second half which was dominated by the Buccaneers followed with the visitors hungry for more goals. Jele netted with a glancing header after connecting with Hotto's cross to make it 4-2 to Pirates three minutes before the hour-mark and it was the Bucs captain's third goal in this season's Confederation Cup.

Leopards were finding it difficult to contain Bucs' pacy attackers and they conceded another goal on the hour-mark. Thembinkosi Lorch set up Kabelo Dlamini, who curled his shot into the top right corner - beating goalkeeper Ayanda Msibi hands down to extend Pirates' lead to 5-2.

Co-coaches Mandla Ncikazi and Fadlu Davids refreshed their attack in the 69th minute as they pulled out Lorch and introduced Dzvukamanja. The Zimbabwe international sealed Pirates' 6-2 win over Leopards when he fired past Msibi after being sent through on goal by Peprah in the 80th minute.

The win saw Pirates consolidate their place at the top of the group standings as they are two points above second-placed JS Saoura of Algeria. Bucs will now face Cape Town City in a PSL game on March 2, while their next Confederation Cup game is against Leopards at home on March 13.