Esperance claim African title
Ghana defender Harrison Afful scored midway through the first half to give Tunisian club Esperance a 1-0 victory over Moroccan visitors Wydad Casablanca today and the CAF Champions League trophy.
Afful darted down the right flank, cut inside and unleashed an unstoppable left-foot shot that flew past stand-in goalkeeper Yassine Bounou for the tie-clincher after a 0-0 first-leg draw in Casablanca last Sunday.
Wydad were reduced to ten men in first-half stoppage time when defender Mourad El Massane was red-carded after an off-the-ball incident with giant Cameroonian striker Yannick Ndjeng.
Esperance last won the competition in 1994 and have finished runners-up three times since, most recently when humiliated 6-1 overall last year by TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The closeness of the decider was no surprise as Esperance and Wydad also drew twice in the group phase, 2-2 in Casablanca and 0-0 in Rades on the outskirts of the Tunisian capital.
Another final failure avoided
Esperance now also have the chance to compete at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2011 in December, with star-studded European champions Barcelona and Brazilian side Santos among their potential opponents.
Also African champions once before, Wydad gave a Champions League debut to 20-year-old Bounou after veteran captain Nadir Lamyaghri dislocated his shoulder while training.
The match followed a predictable early course with the hosts pressing without any reward. Afful was a constant menace coming forward and soon after breaking the deadlock he surged towards the penalty area again and set up midfielder and captain Oussama Darragi, who blazed wide from a good position.
Wydad striker Fabrice Ondama should have equalised on 32 minutes when he found himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifia, who became an instant crowd favourite by blocking the ball with his foot.
Ondama cut a lonely attacking figure during the second half, while caution was the Esperance keyword as they sought to avoid another final failure. But there was no slip up this time as they comfortably contained what Wydad threw at them.