Thursday,21 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1367, (2 - 8 November 2017)
Thursday,21 February, 2019
Issue 1367, (2 - 8 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

It’s anybody’s game

The African Champions League crown is up for grabs after Ahly’s 1-1 draw with Wydad Casablanca in the first leg of the final, reports Abeer Anwar


photo: Khaled El-Fiqi

After slamming six goals past Etoile Sahel of Tunisia last weekend at the same venue in the second leg of the semi-final of the African Champions League, much was expected of Egypt’s Ahly in the first leg of the final against Wydad Casablanca of Morocco in Alexandria on Saturday night.

Momen Zakaria opened the scoring for Cairo’s Red Devils after just three minutes at the Borg Al-Arab Stadium with its 50,000 spectators. It looked like another rout was on but Wydad’s Achraf Bencharki levelled on the 16th minute at 1-1 which is the way it ended.

Moroccan import Oualid Azaro, who silenced his critics with a hat-trick in the 6-2 demolition of Etoile, could have made it 2-0 four minutes later when he burst clear, only to fire high over with the goal at his mercy, prompting murmurs of discontent from the home fans who are still not convinced the Moroccan striker is the man to spearhead Ahly’s attack

In Ahly’s defence, the Ethiopian referee failed to whistle for a blatant penalty kick after Azaro was clearly brought down in the box.  

Ahly should have scored early in the second half as they attacked continuously, but a well-organised Wydad defence stopped Ahly dead in their tracks.

Wydad host the return match next week and are eager to collect the $2.5 million in prize money and the trophy for only their second time. The Moroccans won all six home matches, including a 1-0 last-eight victory over defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa.

Ahly and Wydad met in the group stage, each winning their home game 2-0.
Excluding the final, both teams have qualified for the FIFA Club World Cup to be played in the United Arab Emirates in December.

Azaro, scorer of a hat-trick in the semi-final rout of Etoile Sahel, was bashed for his performance after the match against Wydad. He joined the Cairo-based giants last summer from Moroccan side Difaa Al- Jadida. The 22-year-old striker, a promising talent as claimed by the press in Morocco, caught the eye of Ahly officials who managed to recruit the youngster for a reported staggering 1.3 million euros.

But Azaro’s start with Ahly was anything but promising as he failed to find the net in his first five games with the team. His breakthrough came following the Etoile Sahel slaughter.

Having scored 12 goals plus eight assists in 24 domestic games in the Moroccan leagues before crossing to Ahly, Azaro still needs to impress the Red Devils fans who are waiting for another big performance from him in their quest to add a record-extending ninth Champions League trophy.

photo: Khaled El-Fiqi

Wydad have featured in two previous Champions League finals, defeating Al- Hilal of Sudan in 1992 and losing to Esperance of Tunisia six years ago.

Ahly coach Hossam Al-Badri, who led Ahly to the 2012 Champions League title, said in a post-match press conference, “I expected it to be a tough game, but we weren’t lucky in finishing off our attacks. We weren’t lucky today. I expect we will enjoy many more chances in the return leg where we will be fighting for the title. Wydad managed to minimise spaces here, but that won’t be the case in the return leg.

“The referee denied the team a legitimate penalty that could have changed the result,” Al-Badri said. “It was after a Wydad defender fouled Azaro inside the area.”

One-time champions Wydad host Ahly in the return leg at Mohamed V Stadium in Casablanca on 4 November. Ahly need to score an away goal to stand a chance of lifting their first Champions League trophy since 2013.

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