AGAIN, ZAMALEK OVERCOME ESPERANCE

A couple of weeks after defeating them 3-1 to claim the 2020 CAF Super Cup title, Egyptian giants Zamalek confirmed their supremacy over Tunisian counterparts and defending champions Esperance, beating them with an identical score at the Cairo International Stadium on Friday evening in the 2019-20 CAF Champions League quarterfinals first leg.

Abdelraouf Benguit gave the visitors the lead after 27 minutes, only for Mohamed Ounnajem to equalize four minutes later.

Achraf Bencharki put Zamalek ahead after 72 minutes, and deep into injury time, Mahmoud Alaa made it 3-1 for Zamalek, scoring from the spot to give the five times champions Zamalek a vital home win.

Esperance finished the game with ten men after Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane received his marching orders for protesting right after Zamalek’s winner.

The return leg takes place in Radis next Friday with the aggregate winner reaching the semifinals.

Against what was expected, Esperance started the game on high note and could have taken the lead immediately from the kickoff. Hamdou Elhouni received the ball inside the hosts’ area and sent a shot that was stopped by Zamalek’s goalkeeper Mohamed Abo Gabal.

The visitors continued having the upper hand, and could have taken the lead after six minutes. Once again it was Elhouni who made use of Ferjani Sassi’s wrong back pass, but his effort that missed the target narrowly.

And it was Esperance who broke the deadlock after 27 minutes. Elhouni received the ball just outside Zamalek’s penalty area, and found Benguit who sent a first time shot that wronged Abo Gabal to give the holders a deserved lead.

But Zamalek immediately responded and restored parity four minutes later. Ounnajem controlled the ball and sent a scorcher from long range that Esperance keeper Ben Chrifia could do nothing about.

The hosts could have taken the lead eight minutes before the break when defender Mahmoud Alaa’s header kissed the crossbar with Ben Chrifia relieved.

Esperance had the half’s final chance when Mohamed Ben Romdhane sent a shot that was deflected to a corner, as both sides went to the break with 1-1 draw. 

The visitors had the second half’s first chance when substitute Khalil Chemam sent a long-range effort that was saved by stretching Abo Gabal.

Achraf Bencharki waived his way through his markers and tried to find the back of the net, but for Chamseddine Dhouadi who stopped the ball after 63 minutes. Ben Chrifia was up to Mostafa Mohamed’s low shot after 68 minutes to keep it tied.

And the hosts finally took the lead after 72 minutes. Mohamed Abdel Shafy’s cross was controlled by Bencharki who sent a shot from close range to give Zamalek the lead.

Esperance had to deal another blow when Ben Romdhane was sent off immediately after the goal for protesting.

Bencharki could have doubled their tally four minutes later but could not connect to Ahmed Sayed “Zizo”s cross from close range.

Zamalek skipper Mahmoud Abdel Razek “Shikabala” sent a shot seconds after entering the field but saw his effort wide after 82 minutes.

And deep into injury time Bencharki had a penalty given for a foul inside the area.

From the spot, Alaa sent Ben Chrifia to the wrong direction to give his side a commanding lead before the return leg next weekend.

-CAF