By Ayodele Ayelomi
Raja Casablanca of Morocco has won the African Super Cup on Friday by defeating Esperance of Tunisia 2-1 to end a 19-year wait for the trophy.
Earlier in the game, Mahmoud Benhalib and Soufiane Rahimi went close in the first half before Abdelilah Hafidi’s fine finish in the 22nd minute.
A superb first-half strike from 20 yards from Abdelilah Hafidi opened the scoring in the tension-soaked match. Rahimi later spurned a chance just six minutes later to double Raja’s advantage.
Esperance took until 36 minutes to threaten Raja’s goal, but should have equalised with their first opportunity when Taha Yassine Khnissi spurned an easy chance while through on the goalkeeper.
The Tunisians did draw level early in the second half though through Mohammed Youcef and at that stage appeared the most likely to win.
But Raja quickly reasserted their dominance with a neat close-range finish from captain Badr Benoun in the 65th minute following a corner.
Raja could have also had a penalty in the closing stages after an apparent handball was missed by the referee and Rahimi also had a goal ruled out for offside in the 75th minute.
The Super Cup is an annual one-off match pitting the winner of the CAF Champions League and second-tier CAF Confederation Cup against each other.
Friday’s match was played in 2022 World Cup host nation, Qatar, the first time it has been played outside Africa. It attracted a near capacity crowd of 18,378.
The victory was some consolation Raja’s French coach Patrice Carteron, who was the manager of the Egyptian team, Al Ahly, when it lost to Esperance in the Champions League final last November, which led to him being sacked.
“I am very happy, I am very proud to bring this title to Casablanca,” he said.
Carteron said he hoped the victory would “motivate the team for the rest of the season”, as they seek to qualify for next year’s Champions League.
A downcast Moine Chaabani, coach of Esperance, congratulated his rival and added: “It’s a disappointment for us.
“We had an eye on the title, we had hope. For me, we put in a more than average game.”