Despite applying fierce pressure and the return of their fierce home support, Tunisian champions Espérance could not find a winning goal in their 0-0 CAF Champions League draw against rivals Étoile du Sahel on Saturday. Instead of increasing their lead at the top of Group C, Espérance will see the scoreless draw as a missed opportunity as they remain two points ahead of Étoile with group rivals CR Belouizdad and Jwaneng Galaxy playing later.
The odds were highly stacked against Étoile, whose struggles in domestic league play have been well documented, but their defense did well to resist the high powered Espérance attack throughout. In the 17th minute the visitors even had a chance to shock the home crowd by finding the opener, but after being set up for an excellent open look on goal, Souleymane Coulibaly’s finishing failed him and his shot tamely rolled to EST keeper Moez Ben Cherifa.
EST creative midfielder Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane is at the center of most attacks for the Blood and Gold, and the rising Tunisia national team player nearly produced a moment of brilliance in the 41st minute but his free kick clattered off the post and out. The Étoile defense led by Algerian veteran center back Houcine Benayada and goalkeeper Ali Jemal were in top form on the day and the visitors made it to the half without conceding.
After Coulibaly’s early miss, Étoile hardly had a sight of the EST goal and bunkered down in the second half in an attempt to steal a point. The pressure was immense from the hosts, but Étoile keeper Jemal came up big whenever his team needed it. Espérance came closest in the 58th minute when halftime substitute Farouk Mimouni was set up for an open shot, but his deflected effort was well saved by Jemal before he did even better to deny a follow up effort by Ben Romdhane.
In the end the draw was a fantastic result for Étoile with a Man of the Match performance from former Espérance youth product Jemal, who held out despite the late sending off of center back Abdelrazak Bouazra and endured a flurry of late chances for the hosts. Highlights from Radès are below.