Four-time African champions Esperance came from a goal down to force out a 1-1 draw with MC Alger in Algiers on Tuesday to cement their hold on top of Group D in the Total CAF Champions League.
Abdel Raouf Benguit scored the equalizing goal on the hour mark, cancelling out Bilel Bensaha’s first half goal as the Tunisian giants moved to four points on top of the group while Alger remained second with two points after back to back draws.
The home side got into the lead in the 27th minute when Bensaha’s left footed first time shot greased through the keeper’s gloves after the forward latched on to an Abdel Nour Belkheir cross from the right.
The Algerians had been the faster off the blocks and the goal was a worthy reward for their industry and persistence.
They kept the push but had to wait till the 42nd minute before they could have a second effort on target, this time skipper Abdel Rahmane Hachoud striking a well taken freekick from distance which was parried away by the Esperance shot stopper.
In the second half the Tunisians returned from the breather an improved outfit and were causing Alger all sorts of problems from the restart. Khalid Abdul Basit should have taken them ahead in the 48th minute but couldn’t execute a perfect header at goal after being picked out by a well delivered cross from the right.
They were level on the hour mark, Benguit sliding in to put the ball beyond the keeper after being put through by a delightful little through ball from skipper Fousseni Coulibaly.
Alger sought to get their lead back and six minutes on the turn, Miloud Rebiai had a header deflected for a corner, though he didn’t get a clean contact after raising to a cross from the right. Chems Eddine Harrag also had a chance, trying his luck from distance but the shot flew wide.
On the counter attack, Esperance should have killed off the game in the 70th minute, but a poor execution of a counter attack which ended up in Khalid’s meekly taken shot wasted the three on one glorious chance.
Substitute Taha Yassine Khenisi had an even better chance six minutes later when he beat the offside trap to collect a ball planted behind the defense, but Alger keeper Abdel Kader Salhi was faster off his line, making his body big in front of the substitute to block his effort.