22 October 2012

North Africa: Busy Week for Maghreb Football

Tunis — EST moved closer to another title, Wydad Casablanca exited the Confederation Cup and the Mauritania football season kicked off.

Esperance Sportive de Tunis qualified for their third straight CAF Champions League final by beating Congolese guests TP Mazembe 1-0 on Saturday (October 20th).

Thanks to defender Mohamed Ben Mansour (70'), the Tunisia L1 champions now have a chance to retain their Champions League title.

The match was also an opportunity for revenge against TP Mazembe, winners of three CAF Champions League titles. Taraji drew nil against the Congolese powerhouse in the first leg match in Lubumbashi. TP Mazembe had also humiliated Esperance in the 2010 final, crushing the Tunisians 5-0 in Lubumbashi and holding them to a 1-1 home draw.

Taraji took the CAF Champions League trophy in 1994, reached the finals in 1999, 2000 and 2010, and won the title last year by beating Morocco's Wydad Casablanca.

For the critical home match at the week-end, Esperance put in a strong performance against strong opponents.

"All we hope for now is to win the African title for the second time in a row and repeat last year's happiness," Ben Mansour told Magharebia after the match.

The Champions League title clash will pit EST against Egypt's al-Ahly. The first leg match is slated for November 4th.

Orange CAF Confederation Cup action brought bad news for another Maghreb side. Wydad Casablanca exited the second-tier tourney after drawing 3-3 on Sunday against hosts Stade Malien in the last round of Group C.

In the first round match of the UAFA Cup, Raja Casablanca crushed Tunisian visitors CA Bizertin 4-0 on Saturday night. Mohcen Yajour scored twice for the win, with Abdelilah Hafidi and Hamza Bourazzouk adding two more goals.

Morocco saw another great game on Sunday: a capital derby. FAR Rabat now hold second place in the Botola Pro 1 after drawing 2-2 against FUS Rabat. The Day 5 match goals came from Salaheddine Akkal (28') and Aziz Jounaid (85') for AS FAR, while FUS Rabat's goals were scored by Zouhair Feddal (53') and Brahim Bahri in extra time.

In another match, Moghreb Tétouan beat guests Raja de Béni Mellal (RBM) 4-2. Moghreb Fès drew 1-1 against Renaissance Berkane, OC Safi defeated Wydad Fès 3-1, KAC Kénitra drew nil against hosts HUSA, and Olympique Khouribga drew 2-2 against Difaa El Jadida.

The CODM Meknes match against Raja Casablanca and Wydad Casablanca's game against Chabab Al-Hoceima were postponed.

The busy sports week also included the launch of Mauritania's National Football League Division 1 championship season. Goals have already started flooding in.

The first drubbing (6-1) was delivered to ASC Garde by FC Nouadhibou on Saturday.

Al Mamy Traoré, claiming a hat-trick, could do what he liked against a slow Garde defence. Despite changes made by Abdallahi Ould Maouloud, the Garde team never gave the impression they were going to give as good as they got.

"I'm happy to have scored three goals, which should help me defend my title as highest scorer last season. More importantly, it makes for a good start to the championship," Al Mamy Traoré told Magharebia about his side's big win.

ASC Garde coach Abdallahi Ould Maouloud (aka Janvion) said his team made a bad job of their first match but would soon bounce back.

"This was a heavy defeat, but our team is coming back to the first division after three years away and they need time to settle in," he said.

The much-awaited clash between ASAC Concorde and ASC Tidjikja turned into a walkover for Concorde, with an emphatic 6-nil win. Ismail Diakité was on the ball, and ran rings around the ASC Tidjikdja defence throughout the match. With their slick team play, Magueye Wade's men delighted a large crowd. Palaye also scored a hat-trick, demonstrating all facets of his talent.

At no point in the match did Coulibaly Gagny's players give the impression that they were up to the challenge, despite a few sparks of talent from Oueissou.

In other season openers, the Police team beat Legwareb 2-1. ASC Kedia, coached by Modou M'Bodj, also stole a narrow victory in the closing minutes from AS Armée.

A local derby between CF Cansado and Imraguens ended in a 1-1 draw and the team from Assaba were held to a goalless draw by Zem Zem.

The first-round Arab Champions League match on Friday between T. Zeina and USMA Algiers ended with a 2-nil win for the Algerians.

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