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Thursday, September 21, 2023

CAFCL: Frantic finish gives Espérance late victory over Al-Merrikh

It appeared Sudanese club Al-Merrikh had done enough to earn a rare point on the road in their Group D opener at Espérance ST but the Tunisian champions found a late goal to start their 2022-23 CAF Champions League group stage campaign with a 1-0 victory in Tunis. Center back Mohamed Amine Tougai scored in the fourth minute of second half stoppage time to secure three points for the Blood and Gold and break the hearts of Merrikh supporters. Espérance will travel to Algeria for their second Group D match at CR Belouizdad and Merrikh will look to get their campaign back on track against Egypt’s Zamalek at home next week.

Espérance were heavy favorites to claim victory but despite controlling play they encountered a determined effort from visitors Merrikh. The hosts made plenty of charges forward in the first half but struggled to create clear chances. EST’s best look came late in the opening forty-five minutes when an accurate long ball from Tougai found Anice Badri but the forward lifted his finish over Merrikh goalkeeper Mohamed Mustafa and wide of the goal.

The frustration continued for EST in the second half as they began to create more opportunities. Badri challenged Mustafa with a shot from outside the Merrikh penalty area but the Sudan national team keeper made a save before his right back Alex Silva swooped in to clear the rebound. Merrikh playmaker Matheuzinho nearly stunned the hosts with a powerfully struck effort from distance but EST keeper Moez Ben Cherifa handled it well.

Eventually the pressure paid off for Espérance with a timely winner to send their supporters home with delight. A lofted ball to the corner of the Merrikh penalty area was headed towards the six-yard box by EST center back Yassine Meriah. Substitute forward Mohamed Ali Ben Hammouda missed his attempt at a bicycle kick but Mustafa could not handle the ball cleanly, allowing Tougai to come in and finish the winning goal to spark the celebrations.

Video of the winning goal is below.