February 06, 2019

Rampant Sahel Overpower Mundane Munich

Étoile Sportive du Sahel (ESS) recorded a memorable victory over an out-of-sorts Bayern Munich in the first match of Day 2 at Al Kass, with a powerful and authoritative display that served notice of the Tunisians’ tournament-winning potential.

The 3-2 scoreline flattered the Germans, who were second best throughout, and were reliant upon two face-saving goals in added time to prevent a three nil thumping.

ESS set the tone for a dominant display from the kick-off, and almost took the lead inside two minutes when the ball fell to Oussama Abid, whose weak shot could not trouble Bayern keeper Manuel Kainz.

Unfortunately, Kainz was deeply troubled 20 minutes later, when his astonishing gaffe gifted the opener to Sahel. There appeared to be little danger when a free kick was swung in from wide on the left, and the Bayern number one rose highest to claim a routine catch, only for the ball to somehow slip through his fingers. Tunisian defender Koussay Rejeb gleefully accepted the unexpected gift, slotting into an empty net from all of three yards.

It is often said that the mark of a top-class keeper is the ability to recover rapidly from adversity. If this is the case, then Kainz is surely destined for greatness. It soon became clear why he is team captain, as he showed great fortitude just minutes after his bizarre blunder to prevent the Tunisians from doubling their advantage. A corner swung in from the right was met firmly by ESS midfielder Nassim Khadher, who planted a firm header that looked destined for the bottom corner, only for the German keeper to get down brilliantly and keep the effort out.

And, five minutes before the interval, Kainz was again the hero, getting strong hands to Mohamed Fallah’s low drive after the Tunisian skipper had cut in from the left.

The 1-0 deficit may have been the German keeper’s fault, but his subsequent heroics ensured that Bayern were still in the game going into half time. But there was nothing he could do when, five minutes after the restart, Khalil Mahoudi latched onto a through ball down the inside right channel, hitting a first time shot past the despairing Kainz’s dive.

Just after the hour, the lively Tunisian should have doubled his tally after intercepting a loose backpass and evading Kainz’s challenge as the keeper

desperately attempted to remedy the situation. The ball arced into the air and fell at the feet of the Tunisian forward, but he somehow shot wide of the open goal from 12 yards out.

As night fell over Aspire Zone and the temperature dropped away, the pace of the game slowed as fatigue began to set in. With a two-goal deficit to rectify, Bayern made a double change on 70 minutes, but any hope of getting back into the game was soon extinguished, after Mahoudi once again escaped through the middle, skillfully evading challenges before cutting back to Montasar Ben Chabchoubi, who made no mistake.

The fervent Tunisian supporters, who had been vocal throughout, raised the volume still louder, their joyous songs providing a fitting soundtrack to a dominant performance against the hitherto highly fancied Germans.

And yet, amazingly, Bayern almost found a way back after plundering two goals in added time. First, substitute Nemanja Motika got on the end of Grant Mamedova’s inviting cross and dispatched a firm volley from 12 yards out.

Then, with only seconds remaining, the referee pointed to the spot after judging – with the aid of VAR - that ESS keeper Ahmed Slimen had planted his studs into the back of Moritz Mosandl when claiming a high ball. The German midfielder recovered to tuck home the penalty, but it was too little too late, as the final whistle immediately sounded.

In truth, ESS never looked in danger, with Bayern desperately disappointing overall - out-thought, outmuscled and outscored by a terrific Tunisian collective who could go far at Al Kass 2019.