Sunday May 28, 2023. 17:30
USM Alger are on the brink of winning their first African title after claiming a 2-1 win over Young Africans in the first leg of the CAF Confederation Cup final at the at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam on Sunday.
Fiston Mayele thought he had rescued a draw for Yanga late on when he cancelled out Aimen Mahious’ 32nd-minute opener for Abdelhak Benchikha’s side but Islam Merili popped up two minutes later to clinch a valuable second away goal.
The Tanzanian Premier League champions now need to score at least twice in the second leg at the 5 June 1962 Stadium on June 3 to keep their title hopes alive.
Young Africans had beaten Marumo Gallants both home and away in the semi-finals to progress 4-1 on aggregate, which extended their undefeated streak in the competition to nine games.
Meanwhile, USM Alger saw off ASEC Mimosas 2-0 in the second leg to book their place in the final after playing out to a goalless draw away from home the previous week.
The visitors made a bright start as Khaled Bousseliou collected the ball from Mahious inside the box and tested Djigui Diarra with a strike after just three minutes.
Yanga then went close just after the quarter-hour mark when Tuisila Kisinda was played into the box on the right by Kennedy Musonda and forced a fine save out of Oussama Benbot.
Fiston Mayele had his first sniff at goal midway through the first half after latching onto a threaded pass from Mudathir Yahya but he only succeeded in dragging his shot wide of the right post.
The home crowd were stunned into silence on 32 minutes, however, when Mahious headed past Diarra at close range after getting on the end of a dangerous free-kick delivered into the six-yard box.
Kisinda looked to respond for the hosts just before half-time, although his shot from the right side of the box failed to trouble Benbot, who watched the ball sail past the left post.
Young Africans were presented with an early chance in the second half after winning a free-kick in a promising position outside the box but Stephane Aziz Ki curled his attempt beyond the left post on 47 minutes.
Mayele squandered another good opportunity three minutes later when he steered a header to the left of the target from a 50th-minute corner, while Bakari Mwamnyeto fired wide of the near post from an angle on the left moments later.
Diarra was soon called into action to deny Mahious from range on 52 minutes before Aziz Ki threatened to restore parity five minutes later with an effort from inside the area on the right that hit the side-netting.
Mahious should have doubled USMA’s lead from a free-kick on 59 minutes, only to steer his header wide of the right post from a few yards out and they were almost made to pay 10 minutes later when Yahya latched onto a pass from Musonda inside the box before producing a sharp save out of Benbot.
Diarra had to be alert to keep out a header from Adem Alilet on 72 minutes and he pulled off an even better save to prevent Saadi Redouani’s long-range shot from sneaking into the bottom left corner of the net on 75 minutes.
Mayele gave Yanga hope when he fired past Benbot at the near post from the left side of the box eight minutes from time but parity last just two minutes as Merili lashed a shot past Diarra after being set up by Khaled Bousseliou inside the area.
Benbot made a vital save at his near post to deny Clement Mzize from long distance in the ninth minute of stoppage time to ensure L’Ittihad would take an advantage into the second leg.
Young Africans (0) 1 (Mayele 82′)
USM Alger (1) 2 (Mahious 32′, Merili 84′)
Young Africans: D. Diarra, D. Job (D. Shabani 76′), B. Mwamnyeto, I. Hamad, K. Shomari (J. Lomalisa 76′), T. Kisinda (B. Morrison 76′), Y. Bangala, M. Yahya, K. Musonda (C. Mzize 86′), S. Aziz Ki (S. Abubakar 66′), F. Mayele.
USM Alger: O. Benbot, S. Radouani, Z. Belaid, A. Alilet, H. Loucif, O. Chita, I Merili (A. Djahnit 90+8′), K. Bousseliou (I. Belkacemi 86′), B. Benzaza (M. Merbah 86′), T. Orebonye (T. Ben Khelifa 90+8′), A. Mahious (A. Meziane 71′).