CAF Champions League

Raja Casablanca 1-0 AmaZulu FC: Green Eagles edge Usuthu in Caf Champions League Group B opener

6:14 AM GMT 13/02/2022
Zakaria El Wardi & Kadima Kabangu of Raja Casablanca, Thembela Sikhakhane of AmaZulu, February 2022
The PSL side was let down by some poor finishing against the three-time African champions at Stade Mohamed V

AmaZulu FC marked their debut appearance in the Caf Champions League group stage with a 1-0 defeat to Raja Casablanca in a Group B match on Saturday night.

Mouhssine Moutouali's second-half strike earned the 12-time Moroccan champions the victory against the PSL side, who were left to rue their missed chances after growing into the match.

Usuthu coach Benni McCarthy opted for players with international experience as Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Veli Mothwa started in goal, while former South Africa under-23 captain Tercious Malepe was recalled to the starting line-up and Zambian forward Augustine Mulenga led the attack.

The KwaZulu-Natal giants were up against a Raja side that had hammered Orlando Pirates 4-0 in their last game against a South African team which was a Caf Confederation Cup clash in May 2021 and the Green Eagles went on to win the tournament.

Raja exerted pressure on the AmaZulu defence from the first whistle, but the visitors kept their shape to limit the former African champions to shots from long range. Zakaria El Wardi tried to test Mothwa from a distance and his effort narrowly went wide of the target.

Usuthu grew into the match as it progressed and they began surging forward with Mulenga looking to use his silky dribbling skills to cut open the Green Eagles' defence. The former Pirates star was fouled near the hosts' box and Abbubaker Mobara placed his attempt over the crossbar from the resultant free-kick.

It was end-to-end stuff towards the half-time break as Mothwa produced a magnificent save to deny Kadima Kabangu. At the other end, Makhehlene Makhaula beat keeper Marouane Fakhr with a well-taken shot, but the woodwork came to the hosts' rescue and the score was 0-0 at the interval.

Usuthu continued to launch attacks after the restart and they had a great opportunity to take lead following a good move involving Makhaula and Thabo Qalinge. Makhaula played a through pass for Qalinge who somehow fired wide of the target with only Fakhr to beat. 

The Durban-based side was left to rue that missed chance as the hosts broke the deadlock through Mouhssine Moutouali. The 35-year-old beat his marker before playing a quick one-two with El Wardi inside AmaZulu's box before firing past Mothwa to hand Raja a 1-0 lead in the 67th minute.

McCarthy responded by introducing goalscoring midfielder Luvuyo Memela. However, Marc Wilmots' side stood firm at the back in the closing proceedings with Usuthu unable to seriously test Fakhr and ultimately, Raja emerged 1-0 winners over AmaZulu. 

Usuthu are set to take on Guinean giants Horoya in their second Group B encounter which is scheduled to be played at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Friday, while Raja will be away to Algeria's ES Setif on the same day.