The 2023 Arab Club Champions Cup (a.k.a King Salman Club Cup) began its group stage in Saudi Arabia on Thursday with four matches at two venues. For the participants representing North Africa, success was difficult to find against the best clubs from the Middle East including top Saudi clubs Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad. Wydad AC, CS Sfaxien, Al Ahli Tripoli and Espérance ST could combine to score only one goal with a record of two draws and two losses for the African clubs.
Morocco’s Wydad AC played their first match since failing to win a trophy for the 2022-23 season and The Red Devils failed to find their scoring touch in Abha. A 0-0 draw against Qatari club Al-Sadd began a day of scoreless draws in Group B that was completed by the same result between Al-Hilal and Al Ahli Tripoli of Libya. Al Ahli will be more satisfied with their point considering the high priced talent in the Hilal side with former English Premier League players Rúben Neves and Kalidou Koulibaly making their competitive debuts.
In Group A there were goals but also defeats for Tunisian clubs Espérance ST and CS Sfaxien in Taif. EST faced Saudi Pro League champions Al-Ittihad and it was a positive start for the Blood and Gold who opened the scoring through Oussama Bougherra in the first half. However, Moroccan striker Abderrazak Hamdallah equalized nine minutes later and Ittihad’s big offseason signing scored on his competitive debut with Karim Benzema providing the winning goal. In the other match it was Al-Shorta, winners of the last two Iraqi Premier League titles, who defeated CSS by a 1-0 score.
Scores from Thursday are below followed by the fixtures for Friday and then highlights from all four matches on Thursday including Benzema’s debut goal for Al-Ittihad.