The towering defender capitalized on a poor clearance by Justalian Nkounkou in the homer’s penalty area to fire a low shot past goalkeeper Chancel Massa to secure a famous victory in Dolisie and get off their campaign at the group phase on a sound footing.
The South Africans deployed a tactical approach allowing their hosts to dominate possession, with occasional raids into the half of the opponents.
Mhlongo’s first major test came on the 14th minute mark and he parried a power-laden shot by defender Jean-Patrick Abouna from a set piece at the edge of the penalty area.
Leopards maintained control of the game and on 32 minutes were unlucky to go up after a low shot by Niger-import Mahamane Cisse missed target by inches. Seven minutes later, Rudy Bhebey-Ndey also saw his glancing header fly just across the face of goal.
Just before the break, Mhlongo pulled the best save of the game with an acrobatic response to palm away Junior Makiesse’s goal bound shot to end the first half barren.
The host resumed on the same tempo whilst the Buccaneers also had some moments of possession. During one of such moves by the visitors, midfielder Issa Sarr fired a shot into the Leopards defence which met a weak clearance from Nkounkou, and the ball fell to Jele, who struck a low shot past Massa for the only goal of the match.
The hosts kept the visitors defence boiling in search of the equalizer but their efforts proved fruitless.
Pirates will next host Egyptian giants, Zamalek on 11 July 2015 in Mbombela whilst Leopards travel to Sfax as guests of CS Sfaxien.