CAF Champions League

Esperance lose but remain group leaders

Esperance will seek their quarter-final berth when they meet Al Merreikh. Photo | CAF Online
Esperance will seek their quarter-final berth when they meet Al Merreikh. Photo | CAF Online


Ahmed ‘Zizo’ Sayed starred as Egyptian giants Zamalek beat Tunisia’s Esperance 3-1 at the Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria on Tuesday to revive their TotalEnergies CAF Champions League hopes.

The White Knights were winless prior to the match on Tuesday and a victory against the group leaders hoisted them to third with four points.

The group has now been blown open, with all teams having equal chances of progressing to the quarter finals with two rounds of matches to go.

Algerian outfit CR Belouizdad beat Sudan’s Al Merreikh by a solitary goal in the other group match to move to second spot with six points, while Merreikh drop to bottom with four points, same as Zamalek but with an inferior goal difference.

Zamalek 3-1 Esperance

In Alexandria, Zamalek who had just a point from their first three matches were under pressure to put their campaign in order, and they responded with a near perfect performance.

They got into the lead after just nine minutes when Seif Farouk Gaafar’s shot from inside the box deflected beyond the keeper.

Zizo had done a good job to find space on the right and cut back a cross which his mate converted.

Esperance were rattled and tried to raise back into the match with Yassine Meriah having a header from a setpiece go over in the 20th minute. However, five minutes later, Meriah was in action in the other box, this time adjudged to have fouled Seifeddine Jaziri inside the area as he latched on to a long ball from the keeper.

Zizo stepped up for the penalty and made no mistake, sending the keeper the wrong way as Zamalek doubled their tally.

In the second half, Esperance tidied their act and substitute Riad Benayad who had come on for Anice Badri at the start of the second half halved the deficit.

They kept hunting, but Zamalek defended with heart.

The home side finally sealed the victory in added time in traditional counter attack form. Just as they had won their penalty, goalkeeper Mohamed Sobhi went long after picking the ball in his area catching the run of Zizo.

The latter slashed a cross into the area and Jaziri’s diving header sealed the three points for them.

Meanwhile in Algiers, Mohamed Belkhir’s first half goal earned the hosts a vital win at home. Belkhir finished off inside the box after the ball ricocheted into his path as teammate Anayo Iwuala tried to slalom his way into a shooting position.

For the next match day, Belouizdad will host Zamalek while Merrikh host Esperance, games that will definitely decide the destiny of the group.