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Zamalek Put One Foot In African Champions League Semi-Finals

Zamalek closed in on African Champions League last four on Friday after they saw off highly-fancied Esperance de Tunis 3-1 at Cairo International Stadium.

Zamalek closed in on African Champions League last four on Friday after they saw off highly-fancied Esperance de Tunis 3-1 at Cairo International Stadium.

The White Knights hold a healthy lead going into the next week’s second leg thanks to goals from Mohamed Ounajem, Achraf Bencharki and a last-minute penalty converted by Mahmoud Alaa.

Patrice Cateron’s charges started the tie brightly, as Ahmed Zizo’s shot in the box nearly snuck under goalkeeper Ben Cherifia as early as the tenth minute.

Esperance’s first threat came in the 15th minute through Ilyes Chetti’s first-time strike outside the box with Hamdou Elhoui hoofing the follow-up after Mohamed Abougabai spilt the initial effort.

The Blood and Gold Boys, though, drew first blood in the 27th minute, as Benguit thundered the ball into the net from close range following good work from Abdelraouf Benguit.

Zamalek managed to bring themselves level three minutes later, as Tarek Hamed picked out an un-marked Mohamed Ounajem and the Moroccan made no mistake from twenty-yards out.

Iheb M’barki tried his luck with a free-kick from a distance but the White Knights’ defender fired his effort well over the bar.

Zizo came close to increasing the home side’s lead just before the halftime break but the striker fired an effort into the side-netting from close range.

Esperance threatened early into the second period, as Mohammed Yaacoubi’s ferocious free-kick from range, following a foul by Mahmoud Alaa to Hamdou Elhouni, was unconvincingly kept out by Abougabal.

At the other end, Chetti did well to foil a Sassi flick-on following a long throw-in by Tarek Hamed.

Esperance switched up their structure ten minutes in the second half with the introduction of Abderrahmane Meziane for Mohammed Hammouda.

Zamalek then took the lead in the 72nd minute, as Bencharki poked the ball home from a few yards out, with Hamed once again providing the assist.

Esperance’s task got tougher a minute later as Romadhane was shown a straight red card in an apparent case of mistaken identity after Chamseddine Dhaouadi pulled the shirt of referee Radwan Gayed.

Zamalek added third in stoppage time from a well-taken penalty by Mahmoud Alaa after Bencharki was tripped in the area.

Here’s how they lined up:

Zamalek: Mohamed Abou-Gabal, Hazem Emam, Mahmoud Alaa, Mahmoud Hamdi, Mohamed Abdel-Shafi, Tarek Hamed, Ferjani Sassi, Mohamed Ounajem(Mahmoud Abdel Razek ‘Shikabala’ 81′), Ahmed Sayed (Abdallah Gomaa 83′), Achraf Bencharki, Mostafa Mohamed (Kabongo Kasongo 88′)

Esperance: Moez Ben Cherifia, Ilyes Chetti (Khalil Chemmam 21′), Mohamed Ali Yacoubi, Chamseddine Dhaouadi, Iheb Mbarki, Fousseny Coulibaly, Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane, Hamdou Elhouni, Raouf Benguit, Mohamed Ali Ben Hammouda (Abderrahmane Meziane 62′), Ibrahim Ouattara (Maher Bensghair 87′)

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