Raja Casablanca of Morocco deservedly won the African Super Cup on Friday, narrowly beating Tunisia’s Esperance 2-1 to lift the trophy for the second time.
Goals from Abdelilah Hafidi, a superb first-half strike from 20 yards, and a neat close-range finish from captain Badr Benoun in the 65th minute sealed victory for Raja.
Those goals came to either side of a wonderful equaliser from Esperance’s Mohamed Youcef who smashed home an unstoppable shot in the 57th minute to give the Tunisian side brief hope.
But they could not come back a second time and there were delirious scenes at the end as Raja’s players celebrated their first Super Cup trophy in 19 years.
The Super Cup is an annual one-off match pitting the winner of the CAF Champions League and second-tier CAF Confederation Cup against each other.
Friday’s match was played in 2022 World Cup host nation, Qatar, the first time it has been played outside Africa.
It attracted a near capacity crowd of 18,378.
The victory was some consolation Raja’s French coach Patrice Carteron.
He was the manager of the Egyptian team, Al Ahly, who lost to Esperance in the Champions League final last November, which led to him being sacked.
“I am very happy, I am very proud to bring this title to Casablanca,” he said.
There was little chance of him ending up on the losing side again on Friday as his team dominated for long stretches of the final.
Mahmoud Benhalib and Soufiane Rahimi went close in the first half before Hafidi’s fine finish in the 22nd minute.
Rahimi also spurned a chance just six minutes later to double Raja’s advantage.
Esperance described as the best team in Africa by Carteron before the match took until 36 minutes to threaten Raja’s goal, but should have equalised with their first opportunity when Taha Yassine Khnissi spurned an easy chance while through on the goalkeeper.
The Tunisians did draw level early in the second half though through Youcef and at that stage appeared the most likely to win.
But Raja quickly reasserted their dominance when Benoun flicked in a winner from close range following a corner.
Raja could have also had a penalty in the closing stages after an apparent handball was missed by the referee and Rahimi also had a goal ruled out for offside in the 75th minute.
Carteron said he hoped the victory would “motivate the team for the rest of the season”, as they seek to qualify for next year’s Champions League.
A downcast Moine Chaabani, coach of Esperance, congratulated his rival and added: “It’s a disappointment for us.
“We had an eye on the title, we had hope. For me, we put in a more than average game.”