Egyptian giants Zamalek reached the Total CAF Champions League semifinals for the first time since 2016 despite losing to holders Esperance of Tunisia 1-0 at Rades Olympic Stadium on Friday evening.
Zamalek qualified with an aggregate 3-2 victory having won the first leg 3-1 in Cairo last weekend. They will wait to see their opponent from Morocco’s Raja and DR Congo’s TP Mazembe who lock horns in Lubumbashi on Saturday afternoon. Raja won the first leg 2-0 in Casablanca.
Billel Ben Saha scored what proved to be the game’s lone goal from the spot after five minutes, but Esperance couldn’t find their much needed second goal to surrender the title they won in the past two seasons.
Right from the kickoff Esperance looked keen to find the opener which will ease their nerves. And they had what they looked for after just five minutes.
Fedi Ben Choug found his way past two defenders and passed to Ibrahim Ouattara, whose ball was handed by Zamalek’s defender Mahmoud Alaa inside the vital area. From the spot, Billel Ben Saha sent goalkeeper Mohamed Abo Gabal to the wrong direction to give his side an early lead.
Esperance controlled possession and tried to press Zamalek who opted to defend in numbers and rely on counter attacks. There were almost no more chances till the break. Both sides went to halftime with the hosts leading 1-0.
Less than a minute after restart Hamdou Elhouni found his way past Zamalek defense and sent a cross that was stopped by Alaa in time.
Elhouni remained the hosts’ danger man, and two minutes later his shot went just wide with goalkeeper Abo Gabal relieved.
Zamalek’s nearest chance came after 63 minutes when Achraf Bencharki’s shot was stopped by Esperance’s goalkeeper Moez Ben Chrifia.
Elhouni almost found the much needed goal for the hosts after 70 minutes, when his bullet was brilliantly stopped over the goal line by Abo Gabal.
Substitute Mohamed Ben Hamouda controlled the ball inside Zamalek’s area but his shot went wide with 12 minutes remaining.
Time passed with Zamalek happy to see their opponents at bay as Zamalek found their way to the final four.