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Brilliant Ounajem spurs Zamalek to win over champions Esperance

Johannesburg (AFP) – Mohamed Ounajem struck a brilliant goal for Zamalek as they defeated trophy-holders Esperance 3-1 on Friday in their CAF Champions League quarter-final first leg in Cairo.

The Moroccan attacker controlled a loose ball with his chest, pushed it forward with his thigh and unleashed an unstoppable looping shot into the roof of the net on 31 minutes.

His goal cancelled the lead Tunisians Esperance had taken four minutes earlier 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 to the far post.

Mahmoud Alaa doubled the lead of the five-time African champions 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 shoving the Moroccan referee as many of the visiting team protested the second Zamalek goal.

Another player from the Tunis outfit, who went behind the match official and pulled his shirt, escaped punishment.

Apart from the red card, three Esperance players and one from Zamalek were cautioned in a match between two of the most successful clubs in CAF competitions.

– Security escort for officials –

When the match ended, security personnel rushed to surround the match officials and escort them off the pitch as the losers again vented their anger.

They meet again next Friday in Rades on the outskirts of Tunis with four-time champions Esperance needing to score at least twice to survive.

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

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

Zamalek have won 11 pan-African titles, placing them second behind fellow Egyptian club Al Ahly, and Esperance seven.

Meanwhile, 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, a defender with a knack of scoring, got the second goal 11 minutes from time, his fifth in the competition this season.

Malango was at the centre of a transfer dispute when he joined Raja last year with Mazembe claiming the deal was illegal before FIFA intervened and sanctioned it.

On Saturday, Ahly host Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco have home advantage over Etoile 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.

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