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Closed-door victories take Moroccan clubs to CAF Cup semi-finals

Johannesburg (AFP) – Moroccan clubs Hassania Agadir and Renaissance Berkane reached the CAF Confederation Cup semi-finals Sunday with victories played behind closed doors owing to the coronavirus.

Authorities in the north African kingdom have ordered all domestic and international football fixtures to be staged in empty stadiums as they seek to stem the spread of the virus.

Morocco is among the African nations that has reported coronavirus cases, and the first to announce a ban on spectators attending the most popular sport in the continent.

Agadir defeated Libyan visitors Al Nasr 2-0 — a surprisingly narrow victory margin given they won the first leg 5-0 in a match moved from Benghazi to Cairo for security reasons.

Leading Confederation Cup scorer Karim el-Berkaoui notched his ninth goal this season by converting a 69th-minute penalty.

Redah Atassi claimed his first goal of the African campaign deep in stoppage time, poking the ball over the line after a header had been parried.

Hassania qualified 7-0 on aggregate, a record quarter-final winning margin in the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League.

In an all-Moroccan semi-final, they will face Berkane, who lost on penalties to Zamalek of Egypt in the last final.

Renaissance edged Egyptian visitors Al Masry 1-0 in another match staged in a near-silent stadium with the only noise that of coaches and assistants shouting instructions. 

Larbi Naji was the match-winner, expertly heading a deep corner into the net on 39 minutes for his first goal of the CAF season.

– Nigerian hopes dashed –

Meanwhile, Nigerian hopes of winning the Confederation Cup for the first time ended when twice former African champions Enyimba fell 2-0 away to Horoya of Guinea in Conakry.

A Nigerian contributed to the 3-1 overall downfall of his compatriots as Bolaji Sakin scored with a shot from the edge of the box on 28 minutes.

Enyimba were under constant pressure and a string of superb saves from Theophilus Afelokhai kept them in contention until Boubacar Samassekou nodded a second goal six minutes from time.

The exit of Enyimba completes another disappointing season at CAF club level for an African football giant with none of the other three entrants reaching the knockout phase.

Also, the elimination of Enyimba means that for the first time in seven seasons a club that won the CAF Champions League will not lift the Confederation Cup.

Expensively assembled Pyramids of Egypt coasted to a semi-final clash with Horoya despite a shock 1-0 home defeat by Zanaco of Zambia, who won through a 45th-minute Rodgers Kola goal.

This tie was effectively decided last weekend when Pyramids built a 3-0 first-leg lead in Lusaka, enabling them to qualify 3-1 on aggregate.

The two-leg semi-finals are scheduled for May 3 and 10, followed by a single-match final in Rabat on May 24.

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