The Tunisian side took a huge step towards the group stages of the competition after battering Phobians in Tunis
Ghanaian giants Hearts of Oak were handed their first away defeat in this season’s Caf Confederation Cup by Esperance de Tunis after they made a return to Stade Olympique de Rades, 15 years after beating the same side 2-1 in the finals of the 2000 Caf Champions League.
The Yellow and Gold recovered from their shocking exit from the Caf Champions League to brush aside the Phobians 4-0 in the Confederation Cup playoff round, first leg tie on Sunday.
Hearts kept faith in Abdoulaye Soulama in post and welcomed captain Robin Gnage back into the first team after missing their game against Djoliba in Accra due to suspension. However, striker Foovi Aguidi was handed a surprise role upfront to partner bulky-striker Gilbert Fiamenyo.
Two goals from Nigerian Samuel Emem Eduok either side of the half and two from Ghanaian Harrison Afful handed Esperance a heavy win over the competition’s maiden winners on Sunday, despite missing key striker Yannick N’Djeng.
Esperance nearly drew the first blood in the ninth minute after Afful’s teasing cross was met by Edouk but his powerful header was paried away by goalkeeper Soulama.
The striker finally found the back of the net four minutes later after a quick passing game involving Afful once more to send the home fans into wild jubilations.
Coach Herbert Addo urged his men to push forward in search of the crucial away goal to level the score but their limited chances were squandered by Aguidi and Fiamenyo.
Esperance midfielder Ghilane Chalai then received the first booking of the game at the half-hour mark when he needlessly brought down Isaac Mensah, but Hearts defender Philip Boampong was also on the receiving end five minutes later.
The Ghanaian side returned from the break with a lot of prospect to draw even, Aguidi met Isaac Oduro’s cross but his header could not pose any threat to goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifa before Fiamenyo’s shot went wide.
The homesters then took charge of the game and pilled pressure on Hearts and it yielded three goals within 22 minutes. Afful danced his way into the Phobians defence and laid a pass to Edouk to finish it perfectly in the 58th minute. Afful then turned from a provider to a scorer in the 74th minute. The pocket size full-back sent in a powerful volley which went past goalkeeper Abdoulaye.
Chalali added the fouth goal ten minutes from full time to end the game as a contest.
Before the game, Esperance had played 16 home games in all competitions, winning 13 and drawing one with three defeats. Since December 2014, they have won every game played at home, scoring 20 goals and conceding four.
Hearts, on the other hand, have also won all of their away games in the Caf Confederation Cup this season, scoring five goals and conceding three. The Phobians opened their away account with a goalless draw against AS Police in Benin before shocking Senegalese side Olympique de Ngor 3-2 and wrapping it up with a 2-1 pipping of Djoliba AC in Mali.
Hearts are the only surviving Ghanaian club in Caf competition this season following Asante Kotoko’s early exit in the Champions League after a defeat to Algerian side MC Eulma.
Hearts will welcome Esperance to the Accra Sports Stadium for the second leg tie on May 31, 2015.