USM Alger took a big step towards their first continental title on Sunday after the Algerian club defeated Tanzanian champions Young Africans by a 2-1 score in the first leg of the 2022-23 CAF Confederation Cup final. Islam Merili produced a late match winner to silence the crowd at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam soon after Young Africans striker Fiston Mayele cancelled out the opening goal from Aymen Mahious. USMA will host the second leg in Algiers in a week’s time where Yanga will need to score at least two goals.
Rain poured down in Tanzania and the wet conditions made it difficult for players on both sides. The hosts nearly paid for sloppy passing in the 3rd minute but Yanga goalkeeper Djigui Diarra did well to save after Mahious set up an open shot for Khaled Bousseliou. Yanga replied with a spell of pressure on the visitors but USMA took the lead through a set piece in the 32nd minute when Mahious rose up to head in a free kick service from Brahim Benzaza.
Yanga’s prolific attack was frustrated by strong defending from USMA throughout the first half but the Citizens increased their pressure in the second half and equalized through a moment of brilliance in the 82nd minute. Substitute Bernard Morrison chipped a pass into the USMA penalty area for Mudathir Yahya to head the ball over to Mayele. The Congolese striker quickly flicked the ball into the air before striking a fierce volley past USMA keeper Oussama Benbout at his near post to spark the supporters to life.
However the momentum of the hosts was quickly halted by the Algerian club. USMA forward Tumisang Orebonye received a pass on the right wing and cleverly cut a pass back to Bousseliou. The winger had plenty of room to drive inside and lay off for an open Merili who struck a composed finish past Diarra to quiet the crowd once again.
Highlights from the first leg are below.