Johannesburg (AFP) – Orlando Pirates of South Africa captain Happy Jele conceded a penalty that Shomari Kapombe converted to give Simba of Tanzania a 1-0 win on Sunday in a CAF Confederation Cup quarter-final first leg.
A scrappy affair before a capacity 60,000 crowd in Dar es Salaam appeared to be heading toward a goalless stalemate when disaster struck the Soweto Buccaneers on 68 minutes.
Veteran Jele, a 35-year-old centre-back who recently celebrated 400 appearances for the second most popular South African club after Kaizer Chiefs, recklessly clattered into former Pirate Bernard Morrison.
The Tunisian referee immediately pointed to the spot as Jele and his teammates protested and VAR confirmed that the original decision was correct.
Tanzania international Kapombe took his time with the spot-kick, slowly moving toward the ball before sending former Ghana goalkeeper Richard Ofori the wrong way with a low shot into the corner.
Pirates, whose cautious attitude from the kick-off at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium suggested they had travelled to east Africa content to come away with a draw, suddenly became more adventurous.
But an attack that included Namibian Deon Hotto and Ghanaian Kwame Peprah lacked firepwoer and never put Simba goalkeeper Aishi Manula under pressure.
Simba comfortably retained the slender lead in a match that did not live up to its high-profile billing, leaving the outcome of the two-leg tie in the balance.
The clubs meet again next Sunday at Orlando Stadium in Soweto and a boost for the South Africans is a recent government decision to allow spectators to return after a two-year ban owing to coronavirus.
Crowds are permitted up to 50 percent of capacity, meaning Pirates can allow 20,000 supporters to cheer them on in the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League.
While Pirates are unbeaten at home with three victories and a draw in the Confederation Cup, Simba have fared poorly away from Tanzania, drawing one match and losing three others.
Simba will also reportedly have to do without Morrison, who fell foul of South African authorities when he played for Pirates during the past decade, and has been refused a visa.
Five north African clubs are involved in the other first legs and the kick-offs in Egypt (two) and Libya have been delayed until 2000 GMT to accommodate those fasting during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month.
Footballers are permitted to break the dawn-to-dusk fast, but most prefer to eat and drink at night, then prepare for matches that often finish after midnight local time.