Esperance de Tunis were dealt a major blow in the first leg of their quarterfinal tie against CR Belouizdad in the CAF Champions League as they were beaten 2-0 by the hosts at Stade du 5 Juillet 1962 in Algiers on Saturday evening.
Goals from Zakaria Draoui and Amir Sayoud saw the Red and White putting themselves in full control of the tie against one of the powerhouses of African club football. This is Belouizdad’s first time in the quarterfinal stage of the competition and they have done the hard part by securing a first-leg victory and keeping a clean sheet.
Belouizdad started the match well, dominating midfield through the play of Houssem Mrezigue and Bilal Tarikat, though they initially struggled to create chances against Esperance’s defence.
However, as the match progressed, the home side gradually began to make inroads in attack, with Marcellin Koukpo drawing a fine save from Esperance goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifa inside 25 minutes of the first half.
The Algerian club deservedly claimed the lead in the 35th minute, with Housseyn Selmi doing great work down the right flank to set up Draoui, who provided a first-time finish from near the penalty spot that flew into the bottom corner of the net for 1-0.
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The Tunisian giants upped their game in what remained of the first half, but the interval saw Belouizdad hold onto their lead. Esperance then looked to switch things up in attack early in the second half, introducing Khalid Basit and Ghailene Chaalali off the bench.
The Blood and Gold created a couple of half-chances for Basit and Hamdou Elhouni, but generally, the home team’s Sofiane Bouchar and Chouaib Keddad mopped up on the defensive end and provided great protection for goalkeeper Toufik Moussaoui.
With Esperance building pressure, but also beginning to leave larger gaps in the defence, the chance for a second goal on the counter-attack presented itself for Belouizdad, and they capitalised in the 82nd minute when Draoui turned provider, teeing up Amir Sayoud to power into the box and sweep a low shot for 2-0.
The second leg will be played at Stade Olympique de Rades on Saturday, 22nd May. The aggregate winners will advance to the semifinals and face either Al Ahly or Mamelodi Sundowns.