Hamdou Elhouni’s brilliant strike nine minutes to time was the difference as Esperance stormed to the apex of Group D in the 2022/23 Caf Champions League with a 1-0 victory away to CR Belouizdad in Algiers.
The hosts dominated the game and had the most chances but were caught off against the run of play, as Taraji made it two wins in two matches to sit pretty with a maximum haul of six points in two games.
Esperance had played second fiddle to the Algerians for most of the game, but they made the most of their best chance of the game when it came their way.
Against the run of play, Elhouni picked the ball from distance and took a shot that flew straight into the top left corner of Alexis Guendouz’s goal. Just two minutes before that, the warning bells had rung for Belouizdad when Mohammed Ali ben Hammouda had broken through on goal but Guendouz made a neat save one on one.
Belouizdad had the best chances in the game though. In the first half, Sofiane Bouchar had an effort cleared off the line as he scrambled a volley on target from a corner. In the 34th minute, Anayo Iwuala danced his way into the box but his rasping shot was brilliantly saved by the keeper.
In the second half, they had a close opportunity five minutes after the restart when Zakaria Draoui was denied by the crossbar with a sweetly struck shot inside the box while Akram Bouras volleyed the rebound over.
Iwuala should have given them the lead in the 70th minute when Esperance keeper Moez Ben Cherifia came off his line and missed a clearance, but the Nigerian’s effort at goal was turned away for a corner inches from the goal line.
For all their missed opportunities, Belouizdad were punished with a late goal.
They remain second in the group and will play away to Al Merreikh next weekend while Esperance will be at home against Zamalek.