The Moroccan outfit have to hold on to their slender advantage against the Egyptians if they’re to secure their first continental crown
RS Berkane’s 1-0 win over SC Zamalek last week saw the Moroccan outfit edge closer to their first ever Caf Confederation Cup success.
A late Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba strike in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time was enough to separate the sides at the Stade Municipal.
The Togo frontman’s late goal came after he had hit the woodwork on two occasions in the first-half, but he ended the night third-time lucky with his eighth strike in the competition deciding the first-leg in Morocco.
It’s brought Berkane within 90 minutes from claiming their first continental cup success, in their maiden final appearance, with the clash in Alexandria set to decide their fate.
Mounir Jaouani’s side ended Zamalek’s nine-game unbeaten run last time out, but Sunday’s reverse fixture represents a different prospect.
The Moroccans’ indifferent away form in the competition almost saw them knocked out in the semi-final, and they had to rely on their home form at the Stade Municipal to progress.
They’ve fallen to defeats in three of their seven games on the road in the Confed Cup, with two of those losses coming in their last three away fixtures – a 1-0 defeat by Hassania Agadir in March and the 2-0 loss to CS Sfaxien in the semi-final last month.
The Oranges’ leaky defence in away games has seen them fail to keep clean sheets in five of their seven games outside Morocco, with their shut-outs coming in two of the three away games they’ve won – 1-0 at Al-Ittihad in December and 2-0 win against Gor Mahia in the quarter-final.
Regardless, Jaouani’s wants his side to rewrite history by bringing the title home from Alexandria.
“We know the second leg will be difficult, but the late goal we scored here will be the goal of the championship,” Jaouani said after the first leg. “Now we have a big mission to bring the title from Egypt.”
For Zamalek, Sunday’s fixture represents their chance to pick up their first Confederation Cup title.
While the White Knights have picked up five Caf Champions League titles, they’ve never tasted success in the continent’s secondary club competition.
Fo-Doh Laba’s goal at the death in Morocco was disappointing for the visitors who felt they’d done enough to secure a goalless draw at the home of their North African opponents in Sunday’s meeting.
“We are very sad with the last minute goal.” Zamalek boss Christian Gross said to Caf after the game.
While that defeat ended their nine-game unblemished run in the competition, Gross’ side have been imperious in games in Alexandria, winning five and drawing two of the seven games played in Egypt, with 18 goals scored in those games and only three conceded.
They’ve kept clean sheets in three successive games on their turf, and will draw on the home crowd’s support against the Moroccans.
However, Gross won’t be able to call upon the services of Omar El-Said and Hamdy Nagguez in Sunday’s game after the pair received yellow cards in the first-leg which has consequently ruled them out the return fixture due to suspension.
The Swiss boss recognized his side’s mistakes at the Stade Municipal, but reckoned his side will fight in the return leg as they aspire to make history in the competition.
“We made mistakes, and the goal came from a counter-attack by the Moroccan team,” he began. “We had some opportunities to score, but our players didn’t succeed and missed more than one chance against a strong opponent, who have got quality players.
“We will try to compensate in the return game in Cairo to achieve the African championship.”
Zamalek will strive to reverse the first-leg defeat by the Oranges in Alexandria as they search for their firsttitle, and consequently end a 16-year wait for success on the continent.