Pyramids sail to semis despite Zanaco loss

Debutants Pyramids lost 1-0 at home on Sunday in Cairo against Zambia’s Zanaco, but still progressed to the semi-finals 3-1 on aggregate. Having won 3-0 away from home in the first leg last weekend, the Egyptian side only needed to ensure they avoided a defeat of more than two goals at home to earn a historic place in the last four.

Skipper Rodgers Kola scored the lone goal at the stroke of halftime to give Zanaco some hope of a comeback in the second half, but all that came to nothing as the home side defended with comfort to ensure they sailed through.

With the burden of a three-goal deficit to carry, the Zambian Bankers knew they had a lot of work to do especially playing the return tie away from home.

They threatened early with Kelvin Kapumbu’s fifth minute shot being deflected wide after some wave of pressure. On the turn three minutes later, Pyramids had their first chance of the game when Mohamed Salama broke into the box but his shot was saved.

Ugandan Abdu Lumala who was handed a start in the tie had a rasping shot from range fisted away by the keeper, his first effort at goal after some bright opening minutes on the wing.

Pyramids keeper Mahdi Soliman made a brilliant save in the 16th minute when he pushed Kola’s header off a Romaric Pitroipa cross from the right against the crossbar and the ball bounced out of play for a corner.

Zanaco kept the pressure and at the stroke of halftime, they went ahead when the same combination of Kola and Pitroipa troubled the Pyramids defense. Pitroipa stretched his feet to take the ball away from the advancing Soliman before cutting back for Kola to tap into an empty net.

With two goals needed to complete what would have been a dramatic comeback, Zanaco needed a huge second half.

But they were not composed in the final third and it was the hosts who had the best chances of the second half. Eric Traore’s glancing header from a corner in the 70th minute went inches over while Abdala Mohamed saw his freekick fisted away.

Zanaco tried to build in the pressure to in the final quarter hour of the game, but Pyramids kept their composure to book a last four place in their maiden appearance in a continental club championship.

Source: Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF)

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