Wednesday,22 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1362, (28 September - 4 October 2017)
Wednesday,22 November, 2017
Issue 1362, (28 September - 4 October 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Ahly soar to the semis

Ahly qualified for the semi-final of the 2017 African Champions League after overcoming Tunisia’s Esperance, making up for their disappointing first leg draw in Alexandria, reports Abeer Anwar

Ahly vs Esperance
Ahly vs Esperance

Ahly, the record eight-time African champions, came from behind to beat Esperance of Tunisia 2-1 away to advance to the semi-finals of the African Champions league.

The two teams drew 2-2 in the first leg quarter-final in Alexandria.

Egypt’s Ahly went into the game with no other choice other than victory or a 2-2 draw that would have led to extra time.

They started the game in Rades a goal behind after Taha Yassin Khenissi’s penalty in the 40th minute. The penalty came after goalkeeper Sherif Ekrami was adjudged to have fouled Iheb M’barki following a blunder by full-back Ali Maaloul. Striker Khenissi, who also managed to score in Alexandria, successfully converted from the spot, smashing into the top corner to give his side the lead just five minutes from half-time.  

But the Red Devils reorganised themselves and Maaloul, ironically from Tunisia, equalised five minutes into the second half. He also served up a pinpoint pass for Junior Ajayi of Nigeria to head home the Ahly winner.

“We are preparing well for any opponent but the time between the quarter-final and semi-final is short,” said Hossam Al-Badri, Ahly’s head coach in a post-match television programme.

“Etoile du Sahel is a big team and we have to respect them,” Al-Badri said.

Ahly replicated their 2012 Champions League final scenario by beating Esperance 2-1 in Rades. 

Ahly will meet Etoile du Sahel, also of Tunisia, in their first leg of the semi-finals next Saturday in Tunisia while the second leg will be played in Alexandria’s Borg Al-Arab Stadium on 20 October.

Ahly won the 2005 Champions League title after beating Etoile in the final but the latter avenged this defeat when they lifted the trophy two years later with a win over the Red Devils.

As a result of last week’s victory and that of Etoile against Ahly Tripoli, Ahly will remain in Tunisia for the semi-final match. Ahly’s technical staff decided to stay in Tunisia until the first leg of the semi-finals to give the players enough time to rest ahead of the game.

“A group of players will rest on Sunday and the remaining will undergo physical training here in Tunisia,” Al-Badri said.

“It was also a great opportunity to watch Etoile du Sahel against Ahli Tripoli from the stadium, so it’s a good decision to stay here in Tunisia.”

Mahmoud Taher, Ahly Club president, thanked the fans who massed at the club’s downtown premises chanting the names of the players and the club.

“I thank the Ahly fans. I am happy to hear them in the stands. They have a positive effect on the players. I am happy with such feelings and thank God we were able to succeed,” Taher said.

Ironically enough, Egyptian striker Amr Marei scored twice for Tunisian side Etoile du Sahel to help them defeat Libya’s Ahly Tripoli 2-0 in Sousse and reach the African Champions League semi-final. 

Marei, a 25-year-old frontman who joined Etoile from Egyptian outfit Enppi in the summer, rose between two markers to head home the opener after 14 minutes before adding the second with another fine header two minutes after the restart. 

Etoile du Sahel reach the semi-finals of the CAF Champions League for the first time since 2007.

The other semis clash will see USM Alger of Algeria facing Wydad Athletic Club of Morocco, with the first leg due for Algiers.

It is an all-North African quartet in the semi-finals of the continent’s most prestigious soccer club competition.

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