A second half goal from Hicham Bousfiane earned Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca a 1-0 home victory over Tunisian side Esperance in the first leg of their crunch African Football League semi-final.
Bousfiane found the breakthrough just before the hour mark at Stade Mohamed V as Wydad claimed a slender advantage to take into Wednesday’s return fixture in Tunis.
In front of a raucous sell-out crowd, Wydad started brightly but were unable to capitalise on heavy early pressure.
Esperance goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifia made some important interventions, before Bousfiane pounced to put the hosts ahead.
His deceptive near post finish gave Ben Cherifia no chance as Wydad’s probing was finally rewarded 11 minutes into the second period.
Esperance almost levelled instantly as Anice Badri rattled the woodwork, underlining the tie’s knife-edge nature.
Wydad substitute Zouhair El Moutaraji then clipped the bar late on as both sides had chances to add to the scoring.
But Bousfiane’s solitary strike proved the difference as Wydad claimed a psychological boost, if not a definitive advantage.
The 1-0 victory represents a small measure of revenge for Wydad after their 2018 TotalEnergies Champions League final loss to Esperance.
But four-time African champions Esperance will still fancy their chances of overturning the deficit on home soil on Wednesday.
With the tie delicately poised at half-time, the second leg in the cauldron of Stade Olympique de Rades promises further drama and tension.
Yet Wydad know an away goal could prove decisive in settling this titanic semi-final battle.
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