CAF Champions League 2019

Belaili gives holders Esperance slender semi-final advantage

Youcef Belaili scored the only goal between Esperance and TP Mazembe. Photo | Espace Manager
Youcef Belaili scored the only goal between Esperance and TP Mazembe. Photo | Espace Manager


Johannesburg (AFP) - A Youcef Belaili goal gave trophy-holders Esperance of Tunisia a 1-0 win over TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo Saturday in a CAF Champions League semi-final first leg.

What the Algerian winger intended to be a cross evaded Ivorian goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo on 51 minutes of a cagey match at the Stade Olympique on the outskirts of Tunis.

It was the sixth consecutive win this season by Esperance in the elite African club competition while Mazembe surrendered a six-match unbeaten run.

Defences dominated the clash of clubs who have won the Champions League eight times between them with Esperance having just four goal attempts on target and Mazembe none.

Mazembe will be relatively satisfied with the result given they played the last 18 minutes a man short after Zambian centre-back Kabaso Chongo was red-carded following a second booking.

Mazembe could have had a player sent off during the first half with Ivorian Christian Kouame lucky to be only yellow-carded for a vicious foul on Libyan midfielder Hamdou Elhouni.

Elhouni later limped off from the effects of the foul and was replaced by striker Anice Badri, the 2018 Champions League leading scorer who made little impact.

Another substitute attacker, Haythem Jouini, squandered a late chance to double the Esperance advantage when his shot from inside the box was smothered by Gbohouo.

The result left both semi-finals delicately balanced after Wydad Casablanca of Morocco edged Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa 2-1 at Stade Prince Moulay Abd Allah in Rabat Friday.

Salaheddine Saidi put Wydad ahead midway through the first half, Anele Ngcongca levelled before half-time and Badie Aouk netted the match-winner two minutes into the second half.

Both second legs are next Saturday with Mazembe facing Esperance in Lubumbashi and Sundowns playing Wydad near Pretoria.