CAF CL: Esperance dims Sundowns, Al-Ahly survives Congolese onslaught

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After Saturday night’s first leg of their TotalEnergies CAF Champions League semi-final matchup against South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns, Tunisian team Esperance emerged with a narrow 1-0 lead.

Four minutes prior to halftime, Brazilian attacker Yan Sasse wrapped around goalkeeper Ronwen Williams and scored into an empty net after Rodrigo Rodrigues’ deft through pass.

This proved to be the game-winning goal.

Sundowns had multiple opportunities to tie the score in the second half, but the Tunisian team held strong to take a lead into the second leg in Pretoria the following week.

Sasse hesitated in front of goal in the 63rd minute, missing an opportunity to double Esperance Tunis’s lead.

Midway through the first half, Sundowns had the ball in the net, but Aubrey Modiba’s effort was disallowed for offside.

Peter Shalulile came close for the visitors after the break, but Esperance keeper Amanallah Memmich made a fantastic stop to deny Themba Zwane’s hard drive.

Late in the game, as Sundowns pushed for a vital away goal, the Tunisian goalkeeper was once again called upon to stop Thapelo Morena’s strong strike from going over the bar.

But Esperance held strong to take a slim lead into the second leg as they looked to win the Champions League for the seventh time.

Frustration

It was a frustrating afternoon for football lovers in football-crazy DR Congo after home side TP Mazembe were held to a goalless draw by champions Al-Ahly in Lubumbashi.

The Egyptians kept the Congolese at bay despite their hard work to win the afternoon.

The home fans audience cheered their team and it almost paid-off  early when goalie Mostafa Shoubir was beaten and Filly Traore rose above his markers and head at goal.

But his effort going just wide.

Glody Likonza, the captain of Mazembe, did well to beat his marker with a diving header at the half-hour mark, but his effort sailed just over the bar as Ahly survived a scare.

With the fans behind them, the hosts kept applying pressure, but their lacklustre play in the last third proved to be their undoing as the reigning champs persevered to go into halftime without giving up a goal.

The second leg in Cairo is expected to be fireworks.

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