Al-Merrikh did not get the victory they wanted on Saturday but a late penalty kick conversion from Paulo Sérgio kept the Sudanese club alive in the chase for a quarterfinal spot out of Group D following their 1-1 CAF Champions League draw against Tunisian champions Espérance in Libya. Sérgio’s goal came in the final minutes after a poor defensive error handed EST the game’s opening goal to Mohamed Ali Ben Hamouda in the first half. Espérance are through to the quarterfinals with a match to spare while Merrikh will need a victory in Egypt against Zamalek when the teams meet on April 1.
It was an even battle between the two teams throughout the match but an odd incident in the 23rd minute gave the Tunisian visitors the lead. Moments after a shot from Ben Hamouda was well saved by Merrikh goalkeeper Mohamed Mustafa, central defender Hamza Dawood let a throw-in roll by him into the penalty area where Ben Hamouda reacted quickest to fire past Mustafa. Confusion ensued with Dawood arguing that play was stopped but the Sudanese team’s appeals had no effect on referee Ahmed Imtehaz Heeralall who allowed the goal to stand.
The hosts, forced to play their home matches in Libya, went on the attack to find an equalizer but a stubborn EST defense and goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifia maintained the lead until halftime. The second half remained even and it appeared EST would earn maximum points away from home but Merrikh found their leveler late on.
In the 88th minute, EST failed to adequately clear a Merrikh attack and substitute Ahmed Mahmoud collected the ball at the edge of the area, maneuvering past a clumsy challenge from Raed Bouchniba before going down under the young defender’s sliding challenge. A penalty kick was awarded and Sérgio converted his spot kick to force Espérance to share the spoils.
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