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Bencharki goal hands Zamalek first-leg advantage over Raja Casablanca

By Shafic Kiyaga
Achraf Bencharki (R) celebrates his winner for Zamalek on Sunday | Photo courtesy of CAF Online

Egyptian side Zamalek FC carries a slim advantage to the second leg of their CAF Champions League semi-final clash after a 1-0 victory over Raja Casablanca at the Mohamed V Complex stadium in Casablanca.

Moroccan striker Achraf Bencharki’s lone goal of the game gave Zamalek the first leg advantage on Sunday.

Both sides had a slow start to the game, controlling possession in spells, but it’s the White Knights who took advantage of their possession spell to go ahead after 18 minutes.

Ahmed Sayed produced a sublime cross following a powerful run down the right wing, which was met by a lurking Bencharki at the far post to nod home a fine header.

Raja had a few close chances to restore parity, but Zamalek goalkeeper Mohamed Abou-Gabal was the saviour for his side much to the disappointment of Raja coach Jamal Sellami who thought his team deserved a draw for the least.

“I believe we deserved a draw at least. I thank my players because they gave their all despite the difficult situation we had. I cannot blame any player today and we were the better side all over the game.”

“We still have a chance in the return leg in Cairo and I believe we are still capable of reaching the final,” Sellami said after the game.

Zamalek coach Jaime Pacheco on the other hand applauded his players for the effort and the brave performance, but called for fresh focus ahead of the second leg.

“My players played to my instructions and we achieved a good result away from home,” an elated Pacheco said after the game.

“We felt exhausted because we had many domestic games in a short time, but we were brave enough to have this game tonight.”

“Nothing is won yet; we have to remain focused in the return leg and achieve our target by going through to the final,” he added.

The victory was Zamalek’s first in 13 games on the road in the Champions League, but was also their second win over Raja in three matches in the continental competitions.

Both Egyptian clubs involved in the semi-final hold first leg advantages over their Moroccan opponents.

Zamalek’s win comes 24 hours after Al Ahly picked up a 2-0 win over Wydad Casablanca in the first semi-final earlier on Saturday.

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