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Rahimi foiled as CAF Cup title favourites Raja Casablanca held


Johannesburg (AFP) – Star Raja Casablanca forward Soufiane Rahimi was out of luck as the CAF Confederation Cup title favourites drew 0-0 at Egyptian club Pyramids in a semi-final first leg on Sunday.

With home advantage next weekend, the Moroccan outfit remain the likelier aggregate winners, and if they do advance are set to meet Algerian team JS Kabylie in the July 10 final. 

Kabylie, seeking a first CAF trophy since 2002, came from behind to win 2-1 away to Coton Sport in Cameroon with a Pierre Etame own-goal proving decisive. 

Having won all six group matches and thumped South African side Orlando Pirates in the quarter-finals, Raja are the team to beat in the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League.

They travelled to Cairo in a confident mood having hammered Pyramids 3-0 there in the group phase to complete a home-and-away double over the expensively assembled Egyptian team.  

But Rahimi could not add to his four goals in the competition this season while fellow forward Ben Malango could not increase his five-goal tally.

Rahimi was foiled by a great save from Pyramids goalkeeper Ahmed el Shenawy and later in the first half miskicked when he appeared destined to break the deadlock.

A disappointing night for the Moroccan was completed midway through the second half when he reacted quickest to a rebound and beat El Shenawy only to see the ball cleared off the goal-line.

– Own-goal sinks Coton –

Lucky not be trailing as the match drew to a close, 2020 Confederation Cup runners-up Pyramids almost snatched victory three minutes from the end of regular time.

Former Huddersfield Town forward Ramadan Sobhi got to the ball first after an inch-perfect cross only to see it fly over the crossbar. 

Pyramids made four second-half substitutions and Raja three, but all to no avail, leaving the north African contest to be settled in Casablanca next Sunday. 

In Yaounde, Confederation Cup Golden Boot frontrunner Lambert Araina put Coton ahead on 29 minutes with a powerful header after peeling away from his marker.

Malik Raiah had the ball in the net for Kabylie soon after only to be ruled offside, but the six-time CAF title winners levelled in first-half stoppage time. 

A blunder by Coton goalkeeper Narcisse Nlend left Ahmed Kerroum with the simple task of tapping the ball into the net for his first goal of the African campaign.

Kabylie went ahead on 62 minutes when Etame was struck by a low cross from captain Redha Bensayah and he watched helpless as the ball trickled into the net.

Coton thought they had equalised when the ball seemingly crossed the goal-line, but play was waved on, leaving the Cameroonians needing to score at least twice next Sunday to have a chance of making the final.

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