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Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Bencharki double gives Egypt's Zamalek first African Super Cup title since 2003

Zamalek win their fourth African Super Cup title, their first since 2003, with a 3-1 victory over African Champions League winners Esperance of Tunisia in Qatar on Friday

Hatem Maher , Friday 14 Feb 2020
Bencharki
Soccer Football - African Super Cup Final - Esperance Sportive de Tunis v Zamalek - Thani bin Jassim Stadium, Al Rayyan, Qatar - February 14, 2020 Zamalek's Achraf Bencharki celebrates scoring their second goal REUTERS
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A double salvo from in-form winger Achraf Bencharki gave Zamalek their first African Super Cup title since 2003 with an impressive 3-1 victory over Tunisia's Esperance in Qatar on Friday.

Forward Youssef Ibrahim, nicknamed Obama after the former United States President, gave Confederation Cup winners Zamalek a dream start with a second-minute opener but Abdelraouf Benguit brought Esperance level from the penalty spot early in the second half following a VAR review.

Despite the equaliser, Zamalek displayed a devastating counter-attacking display to down the African Champions League holders, thanks to a mesmerizing performance from Bencharki.

He restored the Cairo giants' lead just before the hour-mark following a brilliant solo effort before putting the game to bed with a stoppage-time goal after finishing off a sweeping breakaway.

The much-needed victory will boost the morale of a Zamalek side who are facing some crucial games this month, including another mouthwatering two-legged clash against Esperance in the Champions League quarters.

They will also meet Cairo rivals Ahly in the Egyptian Super Cup on 20 February and in the domestic league four days later.

French manager Patrice Carteron, who also led Morocco's Raja to the African Super Cup crown at the expense of Esperance last season, won his first title with Zamalek after replacing Serbian boss Micho in December.

The White Knights took their tally to four African Super Cup triumphs, two behind record winners Ahly. Their previous win came 17 years ago when they defeated Moroccan side Wydad 3-1 in Cairo.

Explosive start

Zamalek made an explosive start, going ahead after just two minutes to send their contingent of fans into raptures at the Thani bin Jassim Stadium in Al-Gharafa.

Veteran left-back Mohamed Abdel-Shafi outran his challenger on the left and whipped in an inviting cross that was headed home by Ibrahim, although keeper Moez Ben Cherifia got a hand to it.

Esperance stepped up a gear after falling behind and came close to an equaliser when a low shot from Ghanaian midfielder Kwame Bonsu went just wide after a pull-back from Libyan winger Hamdou Elhouni.

But Zamalek remained dangerous on counter attacks, with their swift passing game and cross-field passes causing constant menace to Esperance, who appeared largely out-of-sorts.

They could have increased their advantage on two occasions before the break, Ahmed Sayed's goal-bound angled drive blocked by a defender and Bencharki's bouncing volley missing an open net after a powerful drive was parried by Ben Cherifia into his path.

Esperance restored parity though in the 54th minute, Benguit finding the roof of the net from the spot after sending Zamalek keeper Mohamed Abou-Gabal the wrong way as defender Mahmoud Hamdi was penalised for a handball after a shot appeared to hit his arm.

It was only awarded after South African official Victor Gomes checked the pitch-side monitor.

Zamalek were undeterred though, keeping their composure and maintaining their neat counter-attacking game.

They went ahead again just four minutes following Esperance's equaliser, Bencharki intercepting a poor pass from Bonsu near the halfway line to leave the Ghanaian trailing in his wake before jinking into the area and placing a precise low shot into the bottom corner.

Esperance's repeated long balls into the area were hardly threatening and Bencharki ensured Zamalek's win three minutes into stoppage time, dinking the ball over Ben Cherifia after a lay-off from Tunisian midfielder Ferjani Sassi.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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