Brazilian Sasse gives Esperance victory over Sundowns

Sundown’s defender #25 Khuliso Mudau vies for the ball with Esperance’s forward #18 Houssam Ghacha during the first-leg of the CAF Champions League football match between Tunisia’s Esperance Sportive de Tunis and South Africaís Mamelodi Sundowns at at the Hammadi Agrebi Stadium in Rades on April 20, 2024. AFP

Brazilian Yan Sasse scored to give Esperance of Tunisia a 1-0 victory over Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa on Saturday in a tense CAF Champions League semi-final first leg.

The South American notched his third goal of the elite African club competition on 41 minutes after pouncing on a superb through ball from compatriot Rodrigo Rodrigues.

Sundowns goalkeeper Ronwen Williams parried the first attempt by Sasse, but the midfielder reacted quickest and poked the loose ball into the net.

Sasse was playing for Wellington Phoenix reserves in New Zealand last year before joining four-time African champions Esperance.

His goal came soon after Sundowns had a goal correctly ruled offside and Rodrigues hit the woodwork and teammate Houssem Tka had another shot cleared off the goalline.

Sasse looked set to score again in the second half only to be foiled by a last-ditch tackle from Grant Kekana.

Sundowns lacked creativity in attack and it was a defender, Mothobi Mvala, who came closest to equalising with a drive that was brilliantly pushed over by 20-year-old Amanallah Memmiche.

It was the 10th clean sheet in 11 Champions League matches this season for Esperance, whose last title came in 2019.

Elsewhere, title-holders Al Ahly of Egypt moved closer to a seventh final appearance in eight seasons after holding TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo 0-0 in Lubumbashi.

Five-time champions Mazembe, in the semi-finals for the first time since 2019, wasted several clearcut chances in each half before both clubs came close to snatching a first-leg victory.

Ahly substitute Mahmoud Kahraba dribbled into the Mazembe area after 86 minutes only to be thwarted by a perfectly timed block from Ernest Luzolo.

A couple of minutes later defender Luzolo came forward for a corner and his powerful header flew just wide.

Added time failed to produce any further chances, leaving Ahly favourites to win the return match in Cairo on Friday, the same day that Sundowns host Esperance.

The Egyptian outfit achieved a satisfactory result despite the absence of several injured first choices, including goalkeeper Mohamed el Shenawy and regular scorer Hussein el Shahat.

Mostafa Shobeir, a son of former Egypt shot-stopper Ahmed Shobeir, has proven an excellent stand-in for captain El Shenawy, keeping clear sheets in his six Champions League appearances.

Mazembe were also held to a goalless draw at home in the quarter-finals, then won the return match against Petro Luanda 2-1 in Angola.

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