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Esperance, Wydad force draws and reach CAF Champions League final

Johannesburg, South Africa: Esperance of Tunisia and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco qualified for the CAF Champions League final Saturday, setting up a third consecutive title decider between north African clubs.   

Trophy-holders Esperance drew 0-0 away to TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo in a semi-final second leg to advance 1-0 on aggregate.

Wydad proved equally strong defensively to force a 0-0 stalemate away to Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa and progressed 2-1 overall.

It will be the second Champions League final between Esperance and Wydad with the Tunisians winning 1-0 on aggregate in 2011.

In the previous two finals, Wydad and Esperance defeated record eight-time African champions Al Ahly of Egypt in all-north African affairs.

Wydad will host Esperance on May 24 or 25 with the return match on May 31 or June 1 and the champions pocket $2.5 million (2.2 mn euros).     

Sundowns began the second leg with a perfect CAF home record this season of five victories, a 22-3 goal tally and the backing of a capacity 30,000 crowd in Atteridgeville near Pretoria.

But the team that slammed five goals past Ahly in a quarter-final first leg at the same venue never looked like replicating that feat.

Coach Pitso Mosimane had likened winger Themba Zwane to Spanish great Andres Iniesta in the build-up, but the South African was closely watched and made little impact.

Sundowns came closest to scoring after 55 minutes when Brazilian centre-back Ricardo Nascimento came forward for a corner and headed the ball against the woodwork.

Another South African defender, left-back Tebogo Langerman, was unmarked inside the box on 87 minutes but blazed a pin-point cross wide. 

Sundowns goalkeeper Denis Onyango tried to succeed where his outfield team-mates failed by rushing to the Wydad penalty area for a stoppage-time corner, but the ball was cleared. 

In southern Congolese city Lubumbashi a similar story to Pretoria unfolded with hosts Mazembe dominating possession and territory but creating few clearcut chances.

The five-time African champions came unstuck in the final third because of poor decision making and wild shooting with only seven of 25 goal attempts on target.

Esperance, hoping to become the first back-to-back winners of the elite African club competition since Ahly in 2012 and 2013, showed little appetite for adventure.

The Tunis outfit, who celebrated their 100th birthday four months ago, have reached the final by winning seven matches, drawing three, scoring 16 goals and conceding only five.

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