Esperance sub makes instant impact in CAF Champions League

Fedi Ben Choug made a dramatic impact off the bench for holders Esperance of Tunisia this weekend in a 2-2 draw with Raja Casablanca of Morocco, which qualified both clubs for the CAF Champions League quarter-finals.

Ben Choug was introduced after 81 minutes in Rades on the outskirts of Tunis and equalised 16 seconds later with a snap shot from inside the box after Raja failed to clear a free-kick.

Abdelraouf Benguit gave four-time African champions Esperance a half-time lead that Congolese Fabrice Ngah cancelled early in the second half.

Captain Badr Banoun put Raja ahead as the top-of-the-table Group D matchday five showdown entered the final quarter.

The visiting team retained the lead for 14 minutes before Ben Choug scored his second Champions League goal this season to salvage a point for the hosts.

Esperance have 11 points with one round remaining, Raja eight and V Club of the Democratic Republic of Congo and JS Kabylie of Algeria four each.

The defending champions are guaranteed to finish first because even if Raja draw level on points after the last matches on February 1, Esperance have a better head-to-head record.

Topping the final standings means Esperance will be among the four seeded clubs in the February 9 quarter-finals draw in Cairo, and have home advantage in the second leg.

- Remarkable scoreline -

V Club trounced Kabylie 4-1 in Kinshasa -- a remarkable scoreline considering the Congolese had found the net just twice in eight previous qualifying and group matches this season.

After both clubs netted in the opening half, Yannick Bangala and Fiston Mayele scored either side of a Nabil Saadou own-goal to lift V Club off the bottom of the table.

Zamalek of Egypt and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco also reached the last eight, joining Raja, Esperance, and earlier qualifiers TP Mazembe of DR Congo and Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa.

Mazembe won Group A by forcing a 0-0 draw in Cairo against Zamalek, whose quarter-finals place was assured when Primeiro Agosto of Angola were held 1-1 at Zesco United of Zambia.

French coach Sebastien Desabre made a winning debut with Wydad, who triumphed 3-1 at home over USM Alger of Algeria to be sure of a top-two finish in Group C.

Sundowns are two points ahead of Wydad after a Motjeka Madisha stoppage-time goal snatched a 2-2 draw at Petro Luanda of Angola, and they host the Casablanca outfit in the final round.

Substitute Mohamed Eldai struck on 84 minutes to grab a 1-0 away win for Al Hilal of Sudan over Platinum of Zimbabwe in Group B, whose qualifiers will be decided only next Saturday.

Etoile Sahel of Tunisia, who meet record eight-time African champions Al Ahly of Egypt in Cairo later Sunday, and Hilal have nine points each, Ahly seven and Platinum one.

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