Algerian side JS Kabylie handed defending champions Esperance their first loss in the group stages after edging out the Tunisian giants by a solitary goal on Saturday. Razki Hamroun scored the lone goal for the Canaries, revenging for a similar loss they suffered in Rades in the first leg.
The victory by Kabylie ended an impressive run of 20 unbeaten matches for the holders.
Despite the loss, Esperance still finish top of Group D with 11 points, same as second placed Raja Club Athletic who however have a lower goal difference. Raja beat AS Vita by a similar margin in the other group match.
Raja and Esperance were already assured of a place in the quarter finals after last weekend’s results. After Saturday’s games, Kabylie finish third in the group with seven points while Vita are bottom with four points off a win and a draw.
Holders Esperance were pushed to the wall by home side Kabylie who looked to pick three points and at least assure themselves of finishing third in the group. They had the most of the chances in the opening half, but their finishing didn’t match the creativity.
But it was Esperance who knocked early on with Youssef Abdelli having a shot from inside the box saved by JSK keeper Abdel Kader Salhi.
However, Kabylie picked up from then on and had good chances to score. Ammar El Orfi had two good chances with shots from range, but keeper Rami Jeridi made two very good saves to keep the holders in the game.
Five minutes to the break, Kabylie had another glorious chance when Kenyan international Masud Juma beat Jeridi to the ball from a cross on the right, but his tap in went just wide.
In the second half though, Kabylie finally got the goal they had worked all evening for, Hamroun hitting the back of the net with a low shot from inside the box after being played through by Toufik Addadi.
The goal was a huge injection of confidence on their end and they continued dominating. Juma almost made it 2-0 in the 76th minute but his rasping shot from a counter attack was parried away for a corner by the keeper.
Addadi came close with eight minutes left on the clock when a freekick was rolled his way, but the shot was parried away by the keeper.
Meanwhile in Casablanca, Bedr Benoun’s header from a freekick in the third minute was all Raja needed to pick up their third group stage victory.