Algeria’s CR Belouizdad have taken a major stride toward the final four of the CAF Champions League after defeating Esperance de Tunis 2-0 at Stade du 5 Juillet 1962 in Algiers on Saturday evening.
The quarterfinal, first-leg match was decided by goals from Zakaria Draoui and Amir Sayoud, with the Red and White – making their debut at this stage of the continental competition – putting themselves in full control of the tie against a traditional powerhouse of African club football.
Belouizdad started the match strongly, dominating midfield through the play of Houssem Mrezigue and Bilal Tarikat, though they initially struggled to create chances against Esperance’s defence.
However, as the match progressed, the Algerian hosts gradually began to unpick their opponents, with Marcellin Koukpo drawing a fine save from EST goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifia just past the midway point of the first half.
CRB deservedly claimed the lead on 35 minutes, with Housseyn Selmi doing great work down the right flank to set up Zakaria Draoui, who provided a first-time finish from near the penalty spot which flashed into the bottom corner of the net for 1-0.
The Tunisian visitors upped their game in what remained of the first half, but the interval saw Belouizdad one goal to the good.
Esperance then looked to switch things up in attack early in the second half, introducing Khalid Abdul Basit and Ghailene Chaalali off the bench.
The Blood and Gold created a couple of half-chances for Abdul Basit and Hamdou Elhouni, but generally CRB’s Sofiane Bouchar and Chouaib Keddad mopped up anything and provided great protection for goalkeeper Toufik Moussaoui.
With Esperance building pressure, but also beginning to leave larger gaps in defence, the chance for a second goal on the counter attack presented itself for Belouizdad, and they capitalised in the 82nd minute when Draoui turned provider, teeing up Amir Sayoud to power into the box and sweep a low shot past Ben Cherifia for 2-0.
The return game will be played at Stade Olympique de Rades on Saturday 22 May. The aggregate winners will advance to the semifinals and face either Al Ahly or Mamelodi Sundowns.
CR Belouizdad (1) 2 (Draoui 35’, Sayoud 82’)
Esperance de Tunis (0) 0
Belouizdad: Moussaoui, Belkhiter, Keddad, Bouchar, Nessakh, Tarikat (Djerrar 55’), Mrezigue, Selmi (Khali 86’), Sayoud, Draoui, Koukpo (Gasmi 64’)
Esperance: Ben Cherifia, Nagguez, Yaakoubi, Bedrane, Chetti (Ben Hamida 73’), Ben Romdhane, Coulibaly (Togui 86’), Benguit (Chaalali 54’), Badri, Elhouni, Khenissi (Abdul Basit 54’).