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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Thrilling finish caps off narrow CAFCL victory for Étoile over Jwaneng Galaxy

There was little to play for outside of pride and positioning in Friday’s Group C action at the CAF Champions League but Tunisia’s Étoile du Sahel and Jwaneng Galaxy provided a thriller of a match that ended with a 3-2 result in favor of the Tunisian hosts. ESS appeared to have the win wrapped up with a 2-0 lead with ten minutes left to play but Galaxy playmaker Gilbert Baruti provided two goals to put the match in doubt before Étoile just held out for the three points. ESS finish in third place with six points while Jwaneng wrap up their CAFCL debut with one point.

Jwaneng have provided plenty of competition and entertainment throughout their group stage campaign but once again defensive lapses prevented the Motswana side from getting a positive result. Another poor start put the visitors behind the pace when ESS opened the scoring in the 9th minute. A cross from Aly Soumah on the right wing found Mohamed Msakni for a header on goal that was parried off the post by Galaxy goalkeeper Ryan Brown, but Congolese striker Vinny Kombe was on the doorstep to tap in the rebound.

Galaxy’s best chance to equalize in the first half came when Thabang Sesinyi did excellently to chest down a lifted ball into the ESS penalty area but his volley attempt went high over the bar. The teams battled for a long stretch but the opportunities were lacking after the opening strike from Kombe.

In the 70th minute it appeared the Tunisian side would cruise to a comfortable victory when a low cross from the right was laid back by Msakni, finding left back Baligh Jemmali for a low first time blast from distance that zipped by Brown for the second goal. ESS allowed Galaxy back into the match when a poor giveaway from Jacques Mbe gave Galaxy’s Themba Dhladhla to pick out Baruti on the left side of the penalty area, who unleashed a stellar blast off the half volley past ESS keeper Rami Gabsi to cut the lead in half.

ESS responded right away when a long ball was headed to Msakni, who once again held the ball up and laid off to the edge of the area for substitute Yassine Amri to curl a beauty of a shot past Brown and the two-goal lead was restored. Galaxy responded a couple of minutes later when another ESS giveaway in the Galaxy half led to Mpho Kgomo lofting a long ball to send Baruti behind the ESS defense, who kept his cool on a 1-on-1 situation to slot his finish under Gabsi to put the result in doubt.

The Tunisian club did hold out despite the charge from the visitors providing a thrilling finish. Highlights of the match are below.