Club Africain beat MAS 1-0 in Confed first leg final

Zouhaier Dhaouadi
Zouhaier Dhaouadi will be a key figure for Club Africain in the second leg of the Confederation Cup final

Tunisia's Club Africain enhanced their chances of lifting the African Confederation Cup by beating Morocco's MAS 1-0 in the first leg of the final played on Saturday in Tunis.

Cameroonian defender Alexis Mendomo put the Tunisians ahead in the 7th minute with a powerful shot from 20 metres.

MAS had their centre-back Samir Zakroumi sent off in the 60 minute for a second bookable offence.

A draw in the final leg will be enough for Club Africain to lift the trophy.

The Moroccans failed to score on the road for the first time in five African Confederation Cup matches and the Tunisians remain title favourites ahead of the return match on December 4 in Fes.

Club Africain received a massive pre-match fillip when the Confederation of African Football lifted the second half of a two-match spectator ban meted out after trouble during the group phase.

A crowd of 45,000 turned up to see hopes of an African double by Tunisian clubs increase after Esperance defeated Wydad Casablanca of Morocco 1-0 on aggregate last weekend to lift the African Champions League trophy.

While MAS displayed a refreshing desire to attack from the kick-off, the home team created the best first-half chances with a free kick from captain Zouhaier Dhaouadi rebounding off the crossbar on 28 minutes.

Midfielder Dhaouadi, among 10 nominees for the 2011 CAF Africa Footballer of the Year award, was a menace at set pieces and his corner just before half-time resulted in a flying header just missing the target.

MAS, hoping to become the second consecutive winners of the Cup from Morocco after FUS Rabat defeated CS Sfaxien of Tunisia last year, came close to levelling two minutes into the second half through a Hamza Abourazzouk flick.

It took superb defending to foil another Abourazzouk attempt to snatch a precious away goal for first-time African finalists Moghreb while Wajdi Mechergui went close with a deflected lob for Club Africain.

The African Confederation Cup replaced the African Cup Winners Cup and CAF Cup competitions seven years ago and Tunisian (three titles) and Moroccan (two) clubs have been the dominant forces.

Apart from a $660,000 cheque, the Cup holders qualify face Esperance in Tunisia next February in a one-off match for the African Super Cup and $75,000.