CAF Champions League Sundowns suffer first-leg defeat against Esperance in Tunis

Esperance Tunis emerged 1-0 winners in a tightly contested first leg of their CAF Champions League semi-final against Mamelodi Sundowns.

Brazilian Yan Sasse’s 41st-minute goal proved decisive in a 1-0 win for Esperance at Stade Olympique Hammadi Agrebi. Sundowns, facing their 46th match of the season amid a gruelling schedule across six competitions, appeared fatigued. Coach Rulani Mokwena’s decision to field a slightly weakened lineup hinted at the toll of their busy campaign.

Missing key midfielder Teboho Mokoena, who was injured, added to Sundowns’ challenges. Despite their weariness, Sundowns had opportunities to equalise, with Thembinkosi Lorch and Lucas Ribeiro coming close. However, Esperance’s defence held firm, securing a vital clean sheet at home.

The scheduling of domestic fixtures by the Premier Soccer League just days before crucial Champions League ties has been criticised, affecting Sundowns’ preparation and freshness for such important matches. Looking ahead to the second leg at Loftus Versfeld, Sundowns face an uphill battle, needing to overturn the deficit with a two-goal victory to advance to the final.

However, their history of comebacks, including winning the African Football League after a first-leg loss, offers hope for a turnaround. The return leg promises to be a fiercely contested affair, with both teams determined to secure a spot in the final.

Dennis Mabuka

Dennis Mabuka is a seasoned Kenyan journalist with 18 years of experience covering sports events. He is currently a sport content creator with

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