African Champions League: Zamalek and Raja Casablanca win quarter-final first legs

The African Champions League trophy

Zamalek defeated holders Esperance 3-1 on Friday in their African Champions League quarter-final first leg as Raja Casablanca beat TP Mazembe 2-0 at home.

Zamalek’s Moroccan attacker Mohamed Ounajem unleashed an unstoppable looping shot into the roof of the net on 31 minutes with the goal of the match in Cairo.

It levelled the match at 1-1 after Esperance of Tunisia had taken the lead through a close-range shot from Algerian Abdelraouf Benguit at the Cairo International Stadium.

Egyptian giants Zamalek grew stronger as the match progressed and another Moroccan, Achraf Bencharki, put them ahead on 72 minutes after Esperance failed to clear a cross at the far post.

Mahmoud Alaa doubled Zamalek’s lead four minutes into stoppage time, placing a penalty into the corner of the net as Moez Ben Cherifia dived the wrong way.

Esperance played the final 17 minutes a man short after Mohamed Ali Romdhane was sent off for pushing the referee as many of the visiting team protested the second Zamalek goal.

When the match ended, security personnel rushed to surround the match officials and escort them off the pitch.

The two teams meet again next Friday in Rades with four-time champions Esperance needing to score at least twice to survive.

Zamalek also defeated Esperance 3-1 in the African Super Cup final in Qatar this month and have lost only one of eight African matches between the clubs.

Esperance are hoping to become the first side to win the premier Confederation of African Football (Caf) club competition three consecutive times.

In the later match on Friday, Ben Malango scored against his former club to set up a 2-0 win for Raja Casablanca of Morocco at home to TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Congolese struck after six minutes and captain Badr Banoun got the second goal 11 minutes from time, his fifth in the competition this season.

On Saturday, Egypt’s Al Ahly host Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco have home advantage over Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia in the other first legs.

All eight quarter-finalists have been African champions with Ahly winning the 56-year competition a record eight times.