USM Alger created history by clinching their first-ever continental title as they edged out Tanzania’s Young Africans (Yanga) on the away goals rule in a thrilling finale of the 2022-23 TotalEnergies CAF Confederation Cup.
Despite a 1-0 defeat at home in front of a packed Stade du 5 Juillet in Algiers on Saturday night, USM Alger’s 2-2 aggregate score, courtesy of their 2-1 first-leg victory in Dar es Salaam, secured them the coveted trophy.
Although the loss may have dampened the celebration, it couldn’t diminish the euphoria of becoming the first Algerian side to win the TotalEnergies CAF Confederation Cup.
Yanga, appearing in their maiden continental final, came tantalizingly close to their own momentous achievement after Djuma Shabani’s first-half penalty.
However, they were unable to find a crucial second goal to swing the tie in their favor and claim the crown on enemy territory.
USM Alger’s captain Zineddine Belaid had a second-half penalty saved, but his disappointment was forgotten as the Algerian side held on to a 1-0 defeat at the final whistle, securing their place in history.
Yanga faced a daunting task, needing to win by a margin of more than two goals. They got off to a perfect start when they were awarded a penalty just seven minutes into the match after Saadi Radouani’s challenge on Kennedy Musonda.
Shabani confidently converted the spot-kick, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way and giving Yanga an early lead.
The early goal was precisely what the Tanzanian side needed to fuel their pursuit of victory, and they continued to apply pressure on USM Alger.
In the 30th minute, Alger came agonizingly close to equalizing when Aimen Mahious rose to meet a cross from Khaled Bousseliou, but his header narrowly missed the target.
Yanga’s Fiston Mayele, who was tightly marked, had a glimpse at goal when he expertly controlled a lofted pass from Musonda, but he failed to find the target with his subsequent touch.
After the break, USM Alger came out with greater intensity, pressing Yanga high up the pitch. They were handed a golden opportunity to level the scoreline in the 59th minute when Tumisang Orebonye was brought down inside the area by Ibrahim Hamad.
However, Yanga’s goalkeeper Djigui Diarra produced a brilliant double save, denying Belaid’s penalty before recovering swiftly to block Abderrahmane Meziane’s rebound effort.
The save injected new life into Yanga’s pursuit, and they continued their quest for a second goal. In the 71st minute, Dickson Job attempted a long-range strike, but it was deflected, taking the sting out of the shot as the goalkeeper gathered comfortably.
Alger defended resolutely, denying Yanga clear opportunities inside their box. In the dying minutes of the match, Mayele, who had been closely marked throughout the game, tried his luck with a long-range effort, but it sailed over the crossbar.
With six minutes of added time, Yanga threw everything forward in search of the crucial second goal. However, USM Alger stood firm, preserving their rear guard to ensure the trophy stayed in the Algerian capital.
As the dust settles on an enthralling final, USM Alger can revel in their well-deserved victory, while Yanga can take pride in their valiant efforts throughout the competition.
Story and Photo:CAFONLINE