Za­malek claim CAF Super Cup with 3-1 win

For Esper­ance, it was another bit­ter pill to swal­low as they lost a se­cond con­sec­u­tive Super Cup ti­tle clash, af­ter hav­ing gone down to Moroc­can side Raja Casablanca 12 months ago

Gulf Times - Gulf Times Sport - - FRONT PAGE - By Sa­han Bi­dappa

Za­malek clinched their fourth CAF Super Cup in an im­pres­sive fash­ion af­ter a 3-1 win over Esper­ance Sportive de Tu­nis at the Al Gharafa sta­dium yes­ter­day. The Egyp­tians giants were play­ing their first Super Cup match — which pits the win­ners of the CAF Cham­pi­ons League and CAF Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup — since 2003, and they put on a re­lent­less dis­play in front of a packed crowd to take home the ti­tle.

Youssef Obama opened the scor­ing for Za­malek in just the se­cond minute. Ab­del­raouf Ben­guit made it 1-1 by con­vert­ing a penalty in the 54th minute but Za­malek were back in front just four min­utes later thanks to Achraf Ben­charki’s cool fin­ish, and the for­ward once again struck in the in­jury time to cap a mem­o­rable night for the Cairo-based side.

For Esper­ance, it was another bit­ter pill to swal­low as they lost a se­cond con­sec­u­tive Super Cup ti­tle clash, af­ter hav­ing gone down to Moroc­can side Raja Casablanca at the same venue 12 months ago. And it was Pa­trice Carteron, who came back to haunt them again. The French coach had led Casablanca to vic­tory last year and he once again plot­ted Esper­ance’s downfall on the night.

The Tu­nisians – back-to-back win­ners of the CAF Cham­pi­ons League – have now gone with­out a Super Cup ti­tle since 1995, the only time they have won the ti­tle in five ap­pear­ances. Za­malek’s Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup vic­tory was their first con­ti­nen­tal sil­ver­ware since win­ning the CAF Cham­pi­ons League 18 years ago, and looked like they are keen to make up for the lost time.

Carteron’s men were right on the money from the whis­tle, as Obama put Za­malek ahead in the se­cond minute, the mid­fielder head­ing in a lovely cross from Mo­hamed Ab­delShafy, with Esper­ance goal­keeper Ben Cher­i­fia un­able to do much.

It was a dream start for Za­malek as they were all over the Esper­ance side in the first ten min­utes. The Tu­nisians had got first look at the ri­val goal in the 12th minute when Ilyes Chetti struck a fierce shot but Ab­dul Shafi was alert to the dan­ger.

Four min­utes later, how­ever, Moustafa Mo­hamed went close to dou­bling Za­malek’s lead, but the for­ward’s dip­ping shot from close range went over the bar. Mo­hamed was in the thick of ac­tion again with a rasp­ing curl­ing at­tempt fly­ing nar­rowly over the top of Cher­ifa’s goal.

Za­malek had another golden op­por­tu­nity in the 39th minute with Zizo hav­ing acres of space at the back post to con­trol and shoot – but Chetti got his body in the way to make a spec­tac­u­lar save.

While Za­malek were con­stant a threat on the counter-at­tack, Esper­ance found it dif­fi­cult to break their op­po­nents’ de­fence. Za­malek came to Qatar with a 12-match un­beaten streak, a run that stretched back to mid-De­cem­ber and in­cluded eight clean sheets.

But Esper­ance were let back into the game three min­utes into the se­cond half af­ter Mah­moud Hamdi han­dled the ball in the box. Ref­eree Victor Gomes ini­tially waved to play on but changed his de­ci­sion af­ter a lengthy VAR re­view, where he went to the pitch­side mon­i­tor to have a look.

Ben­guit thumped his spot-kick into the top cor­ner, send­ing the goal­keeper the wrong way. But their joy lasted barely four min­utes. With the Esper­ance de­fence wide open, Ben­charki had an easy run to the box, and the for­ward curled a low shot across Cher­i­fia and into the bot­tom cor­ner.

Esper­ance in­tro­duced striker Yas­sine Khenissi four min­utes there­after in place of Ghana­ian Kwame Bonsu in pur­suit of a come­back. But Mooine Chaa­bani’s could not get past the Egyp­tian team’s de­fence. Ben­charki then com­pleted his brace in added time with another cool fin­ish to send Za­malek fans into rap­tures.

Za­malek’s Achraf Ben­charki cel­e­brates with team­mates af­ter win­ning the African Super Cup yes­ter­day.

Za­malek play­ers pose with the CAF Super Cup tro­phy af­ter their win over Tu­nisia’s Esper­ance in Doha yes­ter­day. PIC­TURE: Noushad Thekkayil

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