Holders Esperance saw off a nervy 2-0 victory over AS Vita in Kinshasa on Saturday to boost their hopes of progressing to the quarter finals of the Total CAF Champions League. The victory hoisted the Tunisians to ten points and will only need a point off the remaining two matches in Group D to confirm their slot in the last eight.
Ivorian midfielder Fousseni Coulibaly and Libyan forward Hamdou Elhouni each scored once to earn Esperance their third victory in the group while Vita saw their chances of a quarters berth blown off as they are just on a point from four matches.
Raja Club Athletic are second in the group with seven points while Algeria’s JS Kabilye are third with four. The last two rounds of fixtures will be hotly contested with the top three teams all having a chance to progress.
But, it will be Esperance who head into the final round with pressure eased off their shoulders after the win at the Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa.
The opening 45 minutes were exciting with end to end football, but it was the visitors who would go into the break with the lead, Coulibaly’s goal being the difference.
Vita were off to a frantic start though, as with just a point off three matches, their chances of making it into the last eight heavily depended on the result they would pull at home against Esperance.
They came close early when Djuma Shabani’s cross was deflected goal-wards by Esperance defender Ilyes Chetti, but luckily, the ball came off the upright. On the other end, Abdel Kader Bedrane missed a sitter when he failed to connect Ibrahim Ouattara’s cross from the right into the net a yard out.
It was Esperance who would get into the lead first, despite Vita’s early pressure. The Ivorian tapped home unmarked at the back post after Hamdou Elhouni’s corner from the left rolled across the face of goal.
Vita tried to respond and get themselves back on track and came close when Zemanga Soze’s shot from the edge of the area rolled inches wide off target. On the other end, Esperance came close but Mohamed Ben Romdhane couldn’t keep his shot low from a beautiful cut back.
Two minutes later, the visitors came inches close to doubling their tally when Ouattara sent Billel Bensaha through on goal from the right, but his low shot past the keeper went just wide. At the stroke of halftime, Esperance were denied by keeper Nelson Lukong when he did well to pick out a header from Elhouni.
In the second half, Esperance looked to try and settle the game early and just two minutes in, Abdel Raouf Benguit forced Lukong into a good save with a shot from inside the box off a little backheel from Elhouni that set him through.
But, it was the home side which would pile the pressure, but they couldn’t get past a defensive wall set up by the visitors. Substitute Wangu Mbabu saw his effort saved while Zana Coulibaly had a long range shot saved for a corner by the keeper.
It would be Esperance who would have the last laugh when off a counter, Elhouni perfectly placed the ball to the far left, bouncing off the upright before rolling into the net.