Easy win -- and a turkey -- slip away
Despite an early two-goal lead, Egypt's Ahli were forced to settle for a draw against Nigeria's Sunshine in their Orange CAF African Champions League semi-final first leg clash, Abeer Anwar
Six-time winners Ahli of Egypt let a two-goal lead disappear before ending their semi-final first leg of the African Champions League against Sunshine of Nigeria 3-3.
Both teams created and lost numerous chances at the Dipo Dina International Stadium in Ijebu-Ode. They tried to put an early end to the game to avoid any surprises in the 2nd leg match to be held in Cairo on 21 October.
Ahli were missing a number of key players including Emad Metab, who excused himself due to unspecified personal reasons, Sayed Mowad who was injured and Mohamed Abu Treika, the star of the team who is facing a two-month ban for refusing to play with the team in the Super Cup match.
Ahli opened scoring in the 18th minute through striker Mohamed Nagi Geddo, whose shot from outside the box beat Moses Ocheje in goal. Al-Sayed Hamdi doubled Ahli's lead on the half hour while five minutes before the end of the first half Sunshine's Cameroon midfielder Tamen Medrano curled a shot from the edge of the box beyond Ahli goalkeeper Sherif Ekrami.
The home team equalised on the 73rd minute from a penalty spot through Dele Olorundare after a goal-bound Ajani Ibrahim was upended by Mohamed Nagi. However, Nagi scored his second and third for his team before Sunshine defender Precious Osasco equalised in the 83rd minute.
Hossam Al-Badri, Ahli's coach, did not blame a single player for the draw but added," we are all responsible for the result. The players were good and executed the plan but they lost a number of chances that could have put an early end to the competition.
"We watched Sunshine play four matches and we felt that this was enough as the players learnt their weak points and their strengths but it differs when we are on the field.
"I don't consider it will be an easy match in Cairo especially that we will be playing with no spectators and you can never guess how Sunshine will play." Most matches in Egypt have been played behind closed doors following the killing of 74 fans in a soccer riot during a league match in February. It was that match and the court trials of those behind the killings that prompted Abu Treika to refuse playing, believing retribution for those killed was going too slow.
Al-Badri was critical of the referee for awarding a penalty for Sunshine. "I think the referee was too quick in taking his decision which I think was not right."
Al-Sayed Hamdi kept tugging on his T-shirt after scoring Ahli's second goal. "I was very happy to be chosen to play the match and not to remain on the substitute's bench. I also couldn't believe myself when I scored Ahli's second goal. It was great." After the match, Al-Badri said that Hamdi had a great future and was very promising. "I think he will have more opportunities in the coming matches," he added.
Ahli lost a golden opportunity to eat two turkeys which Mohamed El-Dali, the Ahli chef, said he would prepare if the club returned to their hotel victorious.
Ahli started preparing for their second leg match yesterday after taking 48 hours off. Bob Bradley, the national team's American coach, excused Ahli players from joining the team in their friendly against Tunisia to give them enough time to prepare for the second leg against Sunshine.
In the other semi-final, TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday drew 0-0 with defending champion Esperance Sportive de Tunis who stayed on course for a second consecutive Orange CAF Champions League title. The Tunis club host the second leg on 20 October and will be favoured to win and set up a probable final against Ahli.
Meantime, the Confederation of African Football announced a change of dates for the 2nd leg of the Champions League final. CAF says that it has been decided to reschedule the second leg of the final, to be played on the weekend of the 16, 17 or 18 of November instead of the initially designated date in the fixtures 9, 10 or 11 November.
The change was made to avoid a clash of scheduling with the final of the African Women's Championship, to be held on 11November.
It will allow each finalist team to take two weeks off between each leg of the final.