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Sunday, December 10, 2023

JS Kabylie earn road victory in first leg of CAFCC semifinal against Coton Sport, who have equalizing goal controversially ruled out

JS Kabylie went down to Yaoundé and earned a stellar 1-2 road victory in their CAF Confederation Cup semifinal first leg against Coton Sport on Sunday, putting them in prime position to finish off the Cameroonian side in Algeria next week. Competition leading scorer Lambert Araina tallied his 7th goal to open the scoring for the hosts but JSK were the better team throughout the 90 minutes, equalizing just before halftime and then finding the winner in the second half.

It was a sluggish start for Coton Sport, who struggled to complete simple passes and posed little threat going forward. After an uneventful opening 20 minutes, the visitors had the first opportunity by getting behind the host defense on the left flank, with Mohamed Benchaira sending a shot over the bar when he was set up by a low cross. Five minutes later Ahmed Ait Abdesslem received service from the left flank as well, but his first shot was blocked and then an overhead kick attempt by Ait Abdesslem was also denied by the Coton Sport defense.

The opening goal came from nowhere when the hosts scored in the 29th minute. A free kick was beautifully served in by Burkinabé international midfielder Sibiri Sanou, his curling effort finding the head of Lambert Araina for a picture perfect header by JSK keeper Oussama Benbout. The visitors increased their efforts to get on the scoreboard and Benchaira’s excellent aerial ball found Malik Raiah, who dribbled by Coton Sport custodian Narcisse Nlend and tapped home. However, VAR revealed that Raiah was a step behind the defensive line when the pass was made, ruling out the goal.

JSK finally got the goal they deserved and it came in the second minute of first half stoppage time. Following a cleared corner kick, Juba Oukaci collected the ball and sent in another cross. Hlend dealt with the aerial ball terribly, dropping it into the path of Ahmed Kerroum for the defender to put an easy finish past a Coton Sport defender on the goal line.

The match opened up in the second half with more entertainment for the crowd. JSK remained determined to win on the road and had a 55th minute chance from a corner, but Badreddine Souyad was unable to direct a difficult half volley on target. The 62nd minute, however, brought JSK a crucial second away goal. The visitors burst out in transition and had a 3 v 2 break, where Walid Bencherifa laid the ball out wide to Rida Bensayah, who struggled to full control the ball but saw a frenzied Nlend rushing out and slid to get a low cross off. With the remaining attackers pressuring, Coton Sport center back Pierre Etama was unable to control his touch and the ball agonizingly crawled over the goal line for an own goal.

Coton Sport made a worthy push to find an equalizer but controversy erupted on their most successful effort. Francis Tombi Alemi flew down the right flank and put in a hopeful cross that was deflected, giving Benbout trouble as Araina challenged for the ball. Araina got a head to the ball and it bounced towards the far post of the empty net. A JSK defender got to the ball as it approached crossing the goal line and sat on it before the Algerian side cleared the ball away, leaving Coton Sport protesting furiously. VAR was not used, but close zoom replays showed that the ball crawled just over the line and the hosts had reason to be aggrieved.

The visitors held out well to maintain their 1-2 road victory in a match that featured plenty of excitement and controversy. A picture of the controversial moment when VAR was not used is below followed by the match highlights.