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Football

Esperance eliminate Sundowns in Pretoria

CAF

Tunisian giants Esperance reached the final of the TotalEnergies CAF Champions League when beating Mamelodi Sundowns 1-0 in Pretoria the second-leg of the semi-final in Pretoria on Friday night.

Having ground out a 1-0 first leg win in Tunisia, the Blood and Gold displayed all the traits that have made them such a formidable force on the continent to repel the South Africans by the same scoreline in the return fixture in Pretoria.

Raed Bouchniba’s 56th minute strike ultimately proved the difference as Esperance withstood a barrage of Sundowns pressure to book their place in next month’s final.

For Sundowns, it was a case of so near yet so far as they came agonisingly close to forcing the tie into extra time, with both Thembinkosi Lorch and Themba Zwane striking the woodwork in a frantic second half assault.

But Esperance, steered by the impressive Amanallah Memmich in goal, held firm to continue their dream of landing a third Champions League crown in seven years.

The Tunisians may have slipped below the Blood and Gold in recent years, but they have already shown their ability to rise to the big occasion by edging out Sundowns over two tight semi-final legs.

While crestfallen Sundowns must lick their wounds, for Esperance and their veteran coach Miguel Cardoso the focus switches to stopping Al Ahly’s bid for an unprecedented treble.

The two African giants will go head-to-head in two legs of the mouthwatering final between two sets of continental royalty next month.

Al Ahly needed a late fight to defeat Mazembe and reach yet another TotalEnergies CAF Champions League final, but will be wary of the threat posed by Esperance.

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