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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Espérance dominate on their way to CAFCL win over Tunis rivals Étoile

The top-2 spots in the CAF Champions League’s Group C are looking like they will go to Algeria’s CR Belouizdad and Tunisia’s Espérance after EST cruised to a 2-0 victory over rivals Étoile du Sahel on Saturday. The Blood and Gold are now tied atop the group with CRB on eight points while Étoile are five points back with only two games to go. Étoile will now have to win in Algeria against CRB to have any chance of advancing from the group.

The odds of Étoile pulling off an upset always looked long after the earlier CAFCL 0-0 draw between the teams was mostly dominated by Espérance, and last season’s Tunisian champions were determined to make sure they finished their chances this time. First half action mostly consisted of Espérance trying to make their breakthrough via set pieces without success. The closest the favorites came to beating ESS goalkeeper Ali Jemal was when a long ball was allowed to bounce through and EST left back Illyes Chetti snuck behind to force a Jemal save.

Étoile failed to get a shot on goal for the entire match and were forced to try and bunker for a point again, but the pressure from the Espérance attacks only increased. Jemal was called upon again in the 50th minute to save after an attack pinballed around his penalty area, but he could not prevent the opener in the 63rd minute. A well placed Sabir Bougrine free kick found center back Abdelkader Bedrane sneaking in behind the ESS defense and he finished past Jemal with an excellent volley to break the deadlock.

ESS came closest to equalizing on the 70th minute when a free kick from Youssef Laouafi bounced to right back Mohamed Yeken, but after flicking the ball in the air his bicycle kick attempt went just wide. Seven minutes later Espérance put the match away courtesy of Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane when the standout midfielder unleashed a precise, bouncing effort from distance that Jemal could only watch as it went in off the post.

Highlights of the match are below.