Friday,26 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1361, (21 - 27 September 2017)
Friday,26 April, 2019
Issue 1361, (21 - 27 September 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Poor hands in the first leg

Ahly go to Rades with little room for error after their goalkeeper’s whopping blunder, Abeer Anwar report

Ekrami scores the goal in his net
Ekrami scores the goal in his net

An amateurish mistake by Ahly’s goalkeeper Sherif Ekrami allowed Esperance to claim a precious 2-2 away draw on Saturday in the first leg of the African Champions League quarter-finals between the Egyptian and Tunisian powerhouses played at Borg Al-Arab Stadium in Alexandria.

The 34-year-old international rose to catch a long-range free kick from Ghailane Chaalali but the ball slipped between his hands into his own net, allowing Esperance to take a 2-1 lead in the 48th minute after first half goals from Abdallah Al-Said in the 10th minute and Yassine Khenessi in the 20th minute made it 1-1 at the half.

Moroccan striker Oualid Azarou earned the draw for Ahly, the record eight-time African Champions, in the 67th minute. But the tie still left the Red Devils lamenting their luck ahead of next week’s return leg in Rades.

Ahly players also blamed the referee for a missed penalty call that led to the draw but the real culprit was Ekrami who should have handled the ball easily.

The glaring error highlighted the absence of good goalkeepers on the national team, currently being served by Essam Al-Hadari, 44. Ekrami is Al-Hadari’s deputy.

The Reds are heading to Rades, nine kilometres south-east of the capital Tunis, with a quest for their first title of the continent’s premier football club competition since 2013.

Tunisia’s Blood and Gold now have the advantage as a goalless draw in the reverse next weekend will be enough to see them through to the last four.

The exciting game was a rollercoaster affair, with hosts Ahly taking the lead from the spot through Al-Said after only 10 minutes. Azarou won a penalty after he was fouled by Montasser Talbi in the vital area. Al-Said made no mistake from the spot to give the Red Devils an early lead.

The host could have doubled their lead seven minutes later but Azarou’s header from Ahmed Al-Sheikh’s cross went just wide.

Minutes later, Al-Sheikh once again tested Esperance’s goalkeeper Moez ben Cherifia who deflected his point-blank shot for a corner.

The misses cost Ahli as Taha Yassin Khenissi of Esperance found the equaliser on 23 minutes.

The visitors took a surprise lead three minutes after the break courtesy of Ekrami before Azarou restored parity seven minutes past the hour mark, rifling in a loose ball, to keep the Cairo giants in contention.

Veteran striker Emad Metaeb tried to score a late winner for Ahly but his effort was blocked by Esperance’s defence as the game ended 2-2.

“We were the better side but were unlucky not to win,” Hossam Al-Badri, Ahly’s head coach, said. “We missed numerous chances and our opponents scored from their few chances. I have said before that the first leg won’t decide anything and we will play to win in Rades. The return leg will need a balanced approach. We have to stay focused and do our best. We have a lot of work to do but I trust my players and their capabilities.”

“We had a good game against a great team,” Moine Chaaban, Esperance assistant coach, said. “Many people described the clash as a final before the final as Ahly and Esperance are two of the greatest teams on the continent. We prepared well for this game and I believe we deserved to win. I’m not 100 per cent satisfied with our performance. The return leg will be difficult for both sides. Nothing is decided yet and we have to prepare well for the reverse.”

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