By Muambo Edward
Football Writer, kick442.com – Cameroon
There was a feeling of déja-vu at the Cairo International Stadium when five times CAF Champions League winners Zamalek of Cairo hosted back-to-back defending champions Esperance of Tunis.
The White Knights had beaten Esperance 3-1 in Qatar a couple of weeks ago in the CAF Super Cup. They repeated that score in the first leg of the quarter-finals of the CAF Champions League this Friday evening in Egypt.
Esperance showed their intent from the first sound of the referee’s whistle and almost took the lead as early as the first minute, but Zamalek’s goalkeeper Mohamed Abo Gabal spared them the embarrassment from Hamdou Elhouni’s effort.
Moîne Chaâbani’s men continued mounting pressure and Elhouni pounced on Ferjani Sassi’s sloppy pass but his effort went narrowly off target.
Esperance were finally rewarded at the 27th minute after their frontline combined very well and Elhouni set up Abdelraouf Benguit who fired the visitors into the lead.
Zamalek needed just four minutes to reply, Moroccan winger Mohamed Ounajem scored screamer outside the box. Abo Gamal’s full stretch amounted to nothing as the White Knights drew tally.
Zamalek almost took the lead before the break but Mahmoud Alaa’s header hit the cross bar to the relief of a beaten goalkeeper Ben Chrifia.
In the second half, Esperance started on the front foot again, Khalil Chemam’s long range effort early into the second half was saved by a full stretched goalkeeper Abo Gamal for Zamalek.
Zamalek absorbed the pressure and took the the lead at the 72nd minute through their Moroccan winger Anchraf Bencharki. He brought down Mohamed Abdel Shafy’s cross before finding a way to put the ball past the Esperance last man standing.
Esperance were reduced to 10 men after Ben Romdhane was sent off for protesting Bencharki’s goal, claiming that he controlled the ball with the use of his hands.
Deep into extra-time, Bencharki again danced his way into the box but was brought down. Zamalek earned a penalty which would give them a chance to take a-two-goal lead into the return leg.
Mahmoud Alaa stepped up an wrong sided Ben Chrifia to hand Zamalek a precious 3-1 win.
A place for the semi-final will be decided next Friday when Esperance hosts Zamalek in Radis for the return leg game.
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