Orlando Pirates handed CAF Confederation Cup walkover after LPRC Oilers withdraw

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Orlando Pirates will advance to the group stage of the CAF Confederation Cup after play-off opponents LPRC Oilers withdrew from the competition.

The Buccaneers have advanced to the next round of the 2021/22 CAF Confederation Cup after the second leg of their play-off tie against Liberia's LPRC Oilers, which was scheduled to take place at Orlando Stadium on Sunday was called off.

"Kindly note that we have been informed of the withdrawal of LPRC Oilers from the TotalEnergies CAF Confederation Cyp this season," the club said in a statement to the media on Friday.

Pirates' statement follows an official statement from the Confederation of African Football, who confirmed the Liberian outfit's decision on Thursday evening.

"CAF has received a letter from the Liberia FA confirming the withdrawal of LPRC Oilers from the TotalEnergies CAF Confederation Cup this season," the governing body said.

"Consequently, this weekend’s scheduled fixture between Orlando Pirates and LPRC Oilers has been cancelled in accordance to the Regulations of the competition."

Pirates held a two-goal aggregate lead after winning 2-0 at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Stadium in Monrovia in the first leg last weekend, courtesy of goals from Tshegofatso Mabasa and Fortune Makaringe.

While no official reason has been given for Oilers' withdrawal, local media suggest that the new Covid-19 variant has contributed towards the club's decision not to honour the scheduled fixture.

Matters relating to the new variant have caused uncertainty in South Africa, where Kaizer Chiefs also appealed to have all their fixtures for December postponed after at least 31 personnel testing positive for Covid, forcing their base to close.

However, conflicting reports from abroad claim that the reason for withdrawal relates to the management of the club refusing to fund the trip due to the result from the first leg.

LPRC were due to depart Monrovia on Thursday but the club’s management – from the Liberian Petroleum Refining Company – are said to be not keen to put money into the trip to Johannesburg considering the cost of travel.

Last season Pirates’ opponents in the first round, Sagrada Esparanca from Angola, pulled out from the second leg of their first-round tie against The Bucs citing the rising Covid-19 related cases as their reason for withdrawing. They had lost 1-0 at home on December 22.

Pirates then automatically qualified for the Play-Offs round where they met Jwaneng Galaxy from Botswana.  

There have already been three walkovers in this competition this season with Interclube (Angola), Al Ahli SC (Libya) and Gor Mahia (Kenya) having all proceeded from the previous round after their respective opponents failed to pitch up for the second leg.

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