The CAF Champions League semifinal was re-introduced in 2001. This stage of the CAFCL does not get enough attention but it has served us with great matches in the past. The anxiety and tension of the fight to reach the final is always an interesting thing.
In 2019/2020 season, we have been waiting to see the Morocco vs Egypt battle but Covid-19 and CAF keep pushing the date of the ties ever further. We now know that the encounters between Al Ahly and Wydad Casablanca plus that of Zamalek against Raja Casablanca will be played in October 2020. Who do you fancy will reach the final?
Of all the CAF Champions League semifinal meetings that have been played since 2001, I would say that 10 of them standout as being the best of the bunch. What was my criteria for picking these matches? The goals and the drama. Check out my list of the 10 best CAF Champions League semifinal matches and let me know if you agree with me 😉
10. Primeiro Agosto vs Esperance Tunis 2018
Primeiro Agosto had just come from knocking out TP Mazembe and looked set for another major surprise against Taraji. It would have been weird to see the Luanda side in the CAFCL final yet they almost did just that.
Primeiro Agosto secured a 1-0 home win over Esperance but were controversially undone in the second leg. Geraldo and then Bokamba had seemingly put the tie beyond the Tunisians but a late Anice Badri goal won the day for Ghoul of Africa in a 4-2 scoreline.
9. Vita Club vs CS Sfaxien 2014
CS Sfaxien and Vita Club were the surprise packages of the 2014 CAFCL and their semifinal encounter delivered.
Sfaxien were tournament favourites heading into the tie and their 2-1 away loss in the semifinal first leg cemented that fact. It looked like the Tunisian side would finally win their first ever CAFCL title. But Vita Club had Firmin Mubele (whatever happened to him btw?), Florent Ibenge and a bunch of other upstarts. I don’t understand how they did it but they did beat CS Sfaxien home and away to reach the CAFCL final.
8. Al Hilal vs Etoile Sahel 2007
Aaah the mid 2000s. Al Hilal and Etoile Sahel were enjoying what were to be their heydays in CAFCL football. Al Ahly was also dominant during this time but when you reach the final, you always have a chance.
Al Hilal won the first leg at home 2-1 but could not hold out when they had to be tested in Sousse. The game was poised at 3-3 on aggregate before one Amine Chermiti proved decisive and sent Etoile Sahel to what would prove to be a historic final.
7. Zamalek vs Wydad Casablanca 2016
This tie proves just how important home matches are in the CAF Champions League – and how embarrasing Zamalek can get. The White Knights had secured a 4-0 first leg home win. This should be the end of it, right? Wrong. This cool team with the likes of Mostafa Fathi and Ayman Hefni could not get their act together for the second leg and they ended up losing 5-2. At one point in that match, Wydad Casablanca was one goal away from leading the tie. SMH.
6. Ismaily SC vs Esperance Tunis 2003
Ismaily? Yes, you read that correctly. Ismaily used to be the best Egyptian team around. And they made good of that status by spanking Esperance Tunis 6-2 in the semifinals. Taraji was embarrassingly bested as they got men sent off in each of the ties. It was the last great perfomance in CAF club football by Ismaily (okay, the 4-2 win over Al Ahly in 2010 was also something).
5. Etoile Sahel vs Al Ahly 2017
Etoile Sahel maintained their record of never losing at home to Al Ahly. And they legit looked like possible champions in that first leg win secured by the likes of Alaya Brigui, Mohamed Ben Amor and Iheb Msakni. But it was not to be as the Tunisians were thoroughly beaten in the second leg in Cairo. Al Ahly won 6-2 with Walid Azarou delivering his best big-game performance for the Red Devils.
4. ES Setif vs TP Mazembe 2014
Oh how close were we to an all-DRC final in 2014? Vita Club did the job but TP Mazembe could not.
This edition of the CAFCL was honestly a weak one and TP Mazembe looked more like favourites when they scored an away goal in Setif. It was obvious how things would go in Lubumbashi, right? Wrong! Sofiane Younes scored in the 75th minute to knock out the Congolese side on away goals rule after the two teams drew 4-4 over two legs. It was kind of sad because TP Mazembe were at the peak of their powers with a deadly attacking trio of Kalaba, Samata and Asante.
They did win the CAFCL a year later. Phew!
3. Orlando Pirates vs Esperance Tunis 2013
Orlando Pirates had looked strong in the 2013 CAFCL. Nevertheless, I was not sure what to expect when they faced Esperance Tunis in the semifinals. They played out a goalless draw in the first leg at home. And I must say that it was a high quality match. But the writing seemed to be on the wall for Roger de Sa’s side as the draw scoreline was exactly what, Esperance coach, Maher Kanzari was looking for. Kanzari’s conservative approach came back to bite in the second leg as his team could not muster another goal to undo the 1-1 scoreline. Both legs proved to be close and tense matches.
2. Zamalek vs Al Ahly 2005
Did you really think that this tie was going to miss out? This was the first ever Cairo Derby in the CAF Champions League and did not dissapoint. It properly marked the fall of Zamalek and the rise of Al Ahly as the top club in Africa – read about that here. The Red Devils fought well and secured victories in both legs of the 2005 CAFCL semifinals. Mohamed Barakat delivered the goods and
Zamalek have never been able to avenge this embarrassment in the CAFCL ever since.
1. Al Ahly vs Esperance Tunis 2010
Wow, talk about controversy! Oussama Darragi got an away goal for Esperance in the first leg 2-1 loss to Al Ahly. Ahmed Fathi scored an amazing winning goal for Ahly but it was Mohamed Fadl’s “handball goal” that made the headlines. Esperance got their revenge quickly and appropriately in the second leg when Michael Eneramo scored the most epic Hand-of-God goals you will ever see. This goal was enough to take Esperance Tunis to their first CAF Champions League final since 2000.
Do you agree with our list or is there a semifinal you feel we should have included? Let us know in the comments section below