Zamalek's coach Patrice Carteron looks on during the first leg of the CAF Champions League Quarter-final football match between Egypt's Zamalek and Tunisia's Esperance in the capital Cairo on February 28, 2020 (AFP)
Zamalek coach Patrice Carteron hailed the team's fighting spirit as they sneaked into the African Champions League semis despite failing to create any goal-scoring chances against Tunisia's Esperance in Rades on Friday.
The Egyptian giants conceded a fifth-minute penalty from Billel Bensaha but still maintained their composure to defend stoutly and go through with a 3-2 aggregate win.
"We suffered a lot because we were always under pressure … it was not the plan not to go forward but the small details were still in our favour," French boss Carteron, who won the Champions League with DR Congo's TP Mazembe in 2015, said after the game.
"We need to be more efficient but I'm very proud of what we achieved. We fulfilled our objective to qualify and that was the most important thing."
Bensaha's penalty made for an exciting opening in the quarter-final second leg but this was the only interesting aspect of a dour affair, in which Zamalek defended in numbers and Esperance never looked like scoring again.
The only chance that fell to the Tunisians on their home soil came on 70 minutes when Libyan winger Hamdou Elhouni cut inside a couple of defenders and fired a low shot that forced a superb one-handed save from Mohamed Abou-Gabal, even though the keeper was unsighted.
Zamalek then comfortably dealt with Esperance's feeble attempts to overcome Esperance again, having beaten them 3-1 in the African Super Cup last month.
"Our task was difficult because of the early goal, but we showed character and a great fighting spirit to advance," Carteron added.
Zamalek, who reached the final in 2016 before losing to South Africa's Mamelodi Sundowns, will meet either TP Mazembe or Moroccan side Raja in the last four.
Raja hold a 2-0 advantage going into the second leg in Lubumbashi on Saturday.
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