It will be a “Morocco v Egypt” semifinal, as Casablanca and Cairo giants Raja, Wydad, Al Ahly and Zamalek earned their final four tickets this weekend, to go a further step towards the Holy Grail of African club football.
The four sides who finished their groups as runner-ups made perfect use of hosting the quarterfinals first leg matches, and achieved an advantage that they defended successfully this weekend to reach the semifinals.
In between them, the semifinals quartet have 18 Champions League titles. Record champions Al Ahly won the premier continental club competition eight times, Zamalek have five, Raja three and Wydad two.
The semifinal pairings will see Raja locking horns with Zamalek in a repeat of the 2002 final, while Wydad takes on Al Ahly 3 years after they met in the 2017 final. First leg games are scheduled on the weekend of 1 and 2 May in Casablanca, while the reverse fixtures take place a week later in Cairo.
Esperance (Tunisia) 1-0 Zamalek (Egypt)
(Zamalek qualify 3-2 on aggregate)
Five time champions Zamalek withstood an early scare when hosts Esperance took an early lead through a fifth minute penalty from Billel Ben Saha. Led by goalkeeper Mohamed Abo Gabal, The White Knights managed to hold till the very end to go to the semifinals with a 3-2 aggregate victory, having won the first leg 3-1 in Cairo.
Abo Gabal proved to be Zamalek’s hero, stopping Hamdou Elhouni from finding the aggregate winner for Esperance, as last two seasons holders were forced to stop their title defending campaign.
TP Mazembe (DR Congo) 1-0 Raja (Morocco)
(Raja qualify 2-1 on aggregate)
Goalkeeper Anas Zniti proved to be the hero for Raja when he saved Jackson Muleka’s effort from the spot 20 minutes from time to deny TP Mazembe from achieving a comeback at their TP Mazembe Stadium in Lubumbashi.
Trailing 2-0 from the first leg in Casablanca, Isaac Tshibangu halved this deficit four minutes after the break. It was all going to the hosts’ favor till Zniti heroically denied Muleka from the spot, as his side held to their aggregate advantage, to see The Green Eagles going to the final four for the first time since 2005. They will now face Zamalek for a place in the final.
Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa) 1-1 Al Ahly (Egypt)
(Al Ahly qualify 3-1 on aggregate)
Tunisian sensational left back Ali Maaloul was once again the man for record champions Al Ahly, this time in Pretoria. A week after scoring a first leg brace in Cairo, Maaloul was behind Ahly’s precious away goal after 21 minutes, when his free kick was deflected by Lebohang Maboe into his own net to give The Red Devils the lead.
Despite finding the equalizer six minutes later via Gaston Sirino, Sundowns still needed three more goals to go through which was an absolutely tough mission against the eight time champions, who completed their revenge for last season’s shocking exit against The Brazilians in the same round.
Etoile du Sahel (Tunisia) 1-0 Wydad Casablanca (Morocco)
(Wydad qualify 2-1 on aggregate)
Wydad joined the final four pack of “groups runner ups”, managing a lone goal defeat in Rades to go through making use of their previous 2-0 home win in Casablanca. Karim Aribi scored the winner for Etoile two minutes before the hour mark, but the 2007 champions failed to find another goal that would have forced the game to a shootout.
Wydad will now rekindle their rivalry with Egyptian giants Al Ahly, three years after the Moroccans won their last encounter to claim their second Champions League title then.
1 – 2 May 2020
Casablanca Raja (Morocco) – Zamalek (Egypt)
Casablanca Wydad (Morocco) – Al Ahly (Egypt)
8 – 9 May 2020
Cairo Zamalek (Egypt) – Raja (Morocco)
Cairo Al Ahly (Egypt) – Wydad (Morocco)