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Raja Casablanca hang tight for CAF Confederation Cup title despite JSK rally

Raja Athletic Club captured their second CAF Confederation Cup in Cotonou, Benin following a 2-1 victory over Algeria’s JS Kabylie on Saturday to bring a successful end to their 2020-21 CAFCC campaign. The goals came from star duo Ben Malango and Soufiane Rahimi in the first half before RCA held off a furious second half rally from JSK to claim the title.

It was a dream start for Raja in the opening stages as The Green Eagles caught the Algerian side off guard and surged out to an early lead. In the 5th minute a lofted ball over the top from Omar Arjoune found Rahimi, who ghosted behind the JSK with a perfectly timed run and then easily got around keeper Oussama Benbout to finish into an empty net. There was a lengthy moment of confusion as the goal was initially ruled offside by the linesperson before being confirmed by VAR review.

The excellent start continued for RCA and they nearly had two inside 10 minutes when a brilliant outside of the foot cross from Abdelilah Hafidi on the left flank found Mahmoud Benhalib but was headed wide. Benhalib’s miss was quickly forgotten only minutes later when Raja’s second goal came in the 14th minute. Left back Oussama Soukhane got forward down the wing and crossed low for Malango, who held off his defender and turned on a dime to cleverly finish with his left foot past Benbout to make it a 2-0 lead for Raja.

JSK finally started to get themselves into the match after their organization was missing at the start, having the better of possession and drawing a couple of saves from Raja keeper Anas Zniti. However, Raja’s two-goal lead was held until halftime arrived and there was plenty of work for the Algerian side to get themselves back into the match.

Manager Denis Lavagne motivated his charges at halftime and the change in attitude was proven immediately when the whistle signaled for the start of the second half. JSK came out on fire with a quick and excellent buildup that resulted in a cross into the RCA box, the ball eventually finding Zakaria Boulahia who took a couple of quick touches to obtain space before firing past Zniti. It was only 28 seconds between the starting second half whistle and Boulahia’s goal, putting Raja right back on their heels.

The odds of JSK staging a comeback were further boosted in the 61st minute when Arjoune made an aggressive challenge in midfield and caught Juba Oukaci in the face with his boot. Arjoune was initially booked with a yellow card but upon VAR review, South African referee Victor Gomes upgraded the card to a red and Raja were now a player down for the remainder of the match.

However, despite JSK pouring numbers forward to find an equalizer, the Raja defense held out and did well to frustrate the Algerian side as Zniti stayed calm and dealt with any efforts on target comfortably. In the end JSK did not quite have the firepower to generate a clear opportunity and Raja were the ones celebrating at the end despite a second half that almost became a disaster.

Highlights of the match are below.


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