A first-half penalty from captain Zinedine Belaid was enough to earn Algerian side USM Alger a shock 1-0 victory over Egyptian giants Al Ahly in the CAF Super Cup final in Saudi Arabia on Friday night.
The historic win seals a maiden Super Cup title for the Algerian club who were superb defensively to cling on to their slender lead amid intense pressure.
Belaid slotted home calmly from the spot just before half-time after the referee consulted VAR and awarded a penalty for handball.
That proved the decisive moment in a tense clash dominated by the Egyptian giants, with USM Alger displaying incredible resilience and backs-to-the-wall defending to pull off an upset.
Al Ahly, who were chasing a record-extending ninth Super Cup crown, enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and chances but could not find a way past an inspired goalkeeper Alexis Nabout.
The Red Devils thought they had equalised early on when Hussein El Shahat’s shot was spilled by Nabout straight into the path of Walter Bwalya, but it was ruled out for offside.
Al Ahly continued to press as Percy Tau and Ali Maaloul forced smart stops from Benabout.
But USM Alger stunned the favourites against the run of play when Belaid smashed in a 42nd-minute spot kick after a handball decision.
The second half followed a similar pattern as Al Ahly laid siege to the Algerian goal without reward. Substitute Mohamed Afsha drilled wide before Percy Tau fired off target when well-placed.
In a heart-stopping finale, Ali Maaloul missed a golden chance before Taher Mohamed Taher’s header was tipped over by the outstanding Benabout.
But USM Alger clung on heroically for a famous victory to spark wild celebrations.
The win avenges their defeat by Al Ahly in the same final two years ago and underlines the progress made under coach Abdelhak Benchikha.
For Al Ahly, this loss ends their hopes of a sweep of trophies this season after already claiming the Egyptian league and CAF Champions League. But coach Marcel Koller will know they deserved more from a performance that merited at least an equaliser.
On the balance of play, Al Ahly will feel aggrieved to take nothing from the showpiece final. But USM Alger’s ruthlessness in seizing their one clear chance and stubborn defending was worthy of the highest praise on a landmark night for the Algerian club.