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CAF Champions League: Wydad Casablanca Wins the Title!

Story from: Africa.com

wydad celebration

Watch the excitement build inside the stadium.

For the first time since 1992, Wydad Casablanca won the title for the African Champions League. After achieving a  1-1 draw in the first leg of the Egyptian Al-Ahly in Alessandria, the Moroccan team won 1-0 at home. As a result of this win, they became the new champion of Africa.

Following the draw and ultimate win against Al-Ahly, the club of Wydad Casablanca relished in the victorious atmosphere that welcomed them home. Thanks to a goal scored by Walid El Karti (1-0, 69th) in the final leg of the tournament, the Moroccan team won the triumphant title of the 2017 African Champions League. This win is quite special, as it is the first victory for a Moroccan club since the success of Raja Casablanca in 1999. As for Al-Ahly, the Cairo-based sports club remains the most successful club on the continent. In fact, they have possession of  eight trophies – the last dating back to 2013.

Because of the team’s most recent success, the club of Wydad has been able to add a new page to its glorious story. The dream of many of the club’s supporters finally became a reality during this past Saturday’s game. The task of winning, however, was not easy; both the players and the public suffered through 90 minutes of the round, even until the final whistle was blown by CAF’s sole championship referee – Mr. Bakary Gassama.

Unforgettable Final

Even from the initial kickoff, the prospect of winning invaded the players’ thoughts; it took them almost 25 minutes to regain their spirits. In the meantime, the players of Al-Ahly, who had to win after the 1-1 draw, conceded in the first leg. Additionally, they forced their defense to bear the weight of the match – especially the goalkeeper, Laaroubi. The Reds and Whites did not start to regain their concentration until the twenty-ninth minute of the match. Haddad served well to Bencharki on a counter-run, but his shot found the crossbar instead. The men of the Egyptian team quickly reacted only four minutes later, but Moumin Zakaria lost his duel in front of Wydad’s goalkeeper, Laaroubi. Wydad Casablanca completed half of its mission at the break of the game, as the score was 0-0.

The players of Coach Amotta, Wydad’s coach, finally took ascendancy after returning from the break. Haddad ideally served Bencharki, but he missed the gift; his shot ended up hitting the outside net. However, that was only a postponement. Bencharki made an outstanding dribble on the right side, and his cross found El Karti who finally beat Egypt’s goalkeeper, Cherif Ikramy (69th). Haddad made another assist to Bencharki four minutes later, but the goal was missed once again. Only 20 minutes remained on the clock, which was a lapse of time that would pass all too slowly for the Moroccan team. Nonetheless, the club’s supporters motivated their players to hold on, as well as to shoot away each of the hot balloons near the penalty area. The finale of the match resulted in Wydad Casablanca earning the African Champions League title, 25 years after their first title was won in 1992.

Thus, Moroccan football once again finds its place in the continent after an eclipse of 18 years. For Wydad’s coach Hussein Amotta, the feeling of accomplishment is obvious; he is the first Moroccan coach to win the most valuable trophy within the sport of African football. Although the night in Casablanca was likely to be long, the entire nation celebrated the brave warriors of Wydad.

After Wydad Casablanca’s final victorious match of the African Champions League, HM King Mohammed VI spoke by phone with Coach Amotta and Captain Brahim Nakach to congratulate them on their win against the Egyptian club of Al-Ahly. The sovereign also instructed the manager and coach to convey his congratulations to all of the players and technical staff, stressing that this coronation is a pride for all the Moroccan people.

An explosion of joy erupted Saturday night in Casablanca, as well as all over the country, after the historic victory of Wydad over Al-Ahly in the final round of the African Champions League.

In addition, the first supporters of the Red and White gathered in the famous United Nations area inside the city and entered a collective jubilation. Their happiness is indescribable, especially since they waited twenty-five years for a second African crown.

The festival promised to be unforgettable in the historic fiefs of “Wydad Al-Ummah” – especially in the Old Medina and the Corniche of Ain Diab, which undoubtedly experienced a sleepless night.

Achraf Bencharki, the star of the competition

Achraf Bencharki, 23 years old, was the star of the competition by scoring five goals, as well as giving assistance.  He  saved his team during the most difficult moments of the competition, and showed  great physical, tactical, and technical abilities.

The new star of Africa was born in Taza. He later trained at the MAS of Fez before joining the Reds of Wydad, with whom  he won his first football title as champion of Morocco last year. Today, various European clubs are interested in signing the player, including Standard Liege (Belgium), Olympique Marseille, OGC Nice, AS Monaco (France), and others. At just twenty-three years of age, Bencharki has received an official invitation from Herve Renard to join the Moroccan national team.

The WAC journey to the title

During the group stage, Wydad Casablanca had already led  the fourth group with 12 points, while  the club of Al-Ahly, which was also in the same group, came  second  with 11 points. On the level of direct matches between them, each side won the match at home and in front of their fans (2-0 back and forth). The Moroccan champions scored 11 goals during this stage of the competition.

In the quarter final, Wydad Casablanca received the win over South African’s Mamelodi Sundowns in Rabat, after being defeated by them 1-0 in Pretoria. Amotta’s men also managed to win 1-0 at home, thanks to a goal of Salaheddine Saidi in the 26th minute. They unfortunately failed to add a second. Therefore, it was necessary to separate the two teams by a penalty shootout – a task that the Moroccans have mastered. They ultimately won 3-2 after three failed attempts by their opponent.

During the semi-final, Wydad Casablanca validated its ticket to the CAF Champions League final with a hard-fought victory over Algerian USM Alger (3-1). It was one of many unforgettable nights of football in Casablanca. Walid El Karti and Achraf Bencharki scored for Wydad in minute 54 of the game, but Ayoub Abdellaoui reduced the score for the USMA in the 68th minute. In the end, Bencharki made the dream possible by scoring the third goal, giving his team a direct ticket to the final.

Wydad Casablanca’s journey to win its second title in the African Champions League:

1st Round:

  • Wydad Casablanca – Mounana (Gabon) 1 – 0
  • Mounana (Gabon) – Wydad Casablanca 1 – 0 (5-4 t.a.b)

Group stage:

  • Wydad Casablanca – Coton Sport (Cameroon) 2 – 0
  • Zanaco (Zambia) – Wydad Casablanca 1 – 0
  • Al-Ahly (Egypt) – Wydad Casablanca 2 – 0
  • Wydad Casablanca – Al-Ahly (Egypt) 2 – 0
  • Coton Sport (Cameroon) – Wydad Casablanca 2 – 0
  • Wydad Casablanca – Zanaco (Zambia) 1 – 0

Quarterfinals:

  • Mamelodi Sundowns (RSA) – Wydad Casablanca 1 – 0
  • Wydad Casablanca – Mamelodi Sundowns (RSA) 1 – 0 (3-2 penalties)

Semi-finals:

  • U.S.M Alger (Algeria) – Wydad Casablanca 0-0
  • Wydad Casablanca – U.S.M Algiers (Algeria) 3-1

Final:

  • Al-Ahly (Egypt) – Wydad Casablanca 1 – 1
  • Wydad Casablanca – Al-Ahly (Egypt) 1 – 0

Technical card of the final match

Final match that took place Saturday, November 4, 2017, at the Mohammed V Sports Complex of Casablanca:

  • Stadium: Mohammed V Sports Complex
  • Lawn: Excellent
  • Lighting: Excellent
  • Spectators: About 50,000
  • Referee: Bakary Gassama (Gambia)
  • Goals: WAC 1: Walid Kerty (69th)
  • Yellow cards: WAC: Youssef Rabeh (39th), Abdeladim Khadrouf (83rd)

Al-Ahly: Junior Ajayi (22), Ahmed Fathy (39), Moamen Zakaria (67), Amr Al Sulaya (77)

The two teams:

WAC: Zouheir Laaroubi (Gk), Abdellatif Noussir, Amine Attouchi, Badr Kdarain, Youssef Rabeh, Ibrahim Nakkach, Salaheddine Saidi, Walid Kerty, Abdeladim Khadrouf (Zakaria El Hachimi, 86th), Ismail El Hadad (Mohamed Outarra, 90th + 2) , Achraf Bencharki. Coach: Houcine Ammouta (Morocco)

Al-Alhly: Sherif Ekrami (Gk), Mohamed Hany, Rami Rabia, Saad Samir, Hussein El Sayed, Ahmed Fathy, Amr Al Sulaya, Moamen Zakaria, Abdallah El Said, Ajayi Junior, Walid Azaro (Ahmed El Gaber, 60th). Coach: Hossam El Badry (Egypt).

Originally published at Africa.com

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