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AFL: Wydad hold slight lead following semifinal first leg victory over Espérance in Casablanca

Morocco’s Wydad AC hold a narrow lead over Espérance ST of Tunisia in the semifinals of the African Football League following a 1-0 victory at the Stade Mohammed V in Casablanca on Sunday. A cross from Wydad winger Hicham Boussefiane found its way into the net for the only goal of the match early in the second half to give Wydad a slight advantage for the second leg. The teams will meet again on November 1 in Tunis for a return match that will be fiercely contested.

Sunday’s first leg clash was the first competitive meeting between the two giants of African football since Espérance captured the 2018-19 CAF Champions League at the expense of Wydad. The first half saw hosts Wydad establish themselves as the attacking team but the EST defense remained excellently organized by experienced central defenders Yassine Meriah and Mohamed Amine Tougai in front of veteran goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifia, who returned to the starting eleven in place of promising young keeper Amanallah Memmiche for the important occasion.

Wydad showed promise when attacking on the wings and the first major opportunity arrived towards the end of the first half when right back Ayoub El Amloud sent his header wide after meeting a cross from Yahya Attiyat Allah on the opposite flank. A similar attack resulted in the opening goal soon before the hour mark courtesy of Boussefiane, whose right-footed cross from the left wing snuck inside the far post after a leaping attempt to head the ball by striker Charki El Bahri left Ben Cherifia rooted to his spot.

The match picked up in urgency after the goal and El Bahri nearly doubled the lead, hitting the crossbar with a header from another excellent cross by Attiyat Allah. The Espérance attack finally began to create some danger including two good opportunities soon after El Bahri hit the crossbar. However, the EST forwards continued to struggle with their finishing and could not find a way past the Wydad defense.

Highlights from the first leg are below.

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