Friday,22 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1404, (2 - 8 August 2018)
Friday,22 February, 2019
Issue 1404, (2 - 8 August 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Full speed ahead

Egypt’s football clubs Masri and Ahly are moving confidently to the second stage of their respective African club championships, reports Abeer Anwar


Ahly levelled the score against Esperance of Tunisia
Ahly levelled the score against Esperance of Tunisia

Masri of Egypt inched nearer to the quarter-finals of the African Confederation Cup after edging Morocco’s Renaissance de Berkane in Port Said last week after an amazing strike from Islam Eissa gave them a deserved 1-0 win.

Eissa netted the winner and the game’s only goal nine minutes into the second half   to put Masri atop Group B with eight points, one ahead of the Moroccans. Sudan’s Al-Hilal are third on three points while Mozambique’s UD Songo lie at the bottom with two points with only two matches remaining.

Masri need only a draw against Al-Hilal in their next game to secure passage to the knockout phase as the team chase their first ever continental title.

Abdel-Latif Grendo attempted to add a second goal five minutes later but his header was blocked by keeper Abdelali Mhamdi.

The visitors tried hard to equalise, especially through Hamdi Laachir in the 61st minute but his shot went begging.

“I’m satisfied with the result,” Hossam Hassan, Masr’s coach, said after the match. “It was our best game in a very long time, and we had a group of players playing their first ever game with the team. We had a good away game against a strong team, and this is better.”

Masri had four new players added to their continental squad, as they are targeting a knockout stage spot for the first time. Palestinian Mahmoud Wady, Ghanaian Torric Jebrin, Nigerian Emeka Eze and Mohamed Gaber are all available now for Hassan, who tasted continental glory before as a player for Cairo giants Ahly and Zamalek.

“Our target is the quarter-finals, and then we will see what’s next,” concluded Egypt’s former striker.

Meanwhile, Ahly of Egypt secured a 3-point victory against Botswana’s Township Rollers in the African Champions League, winning 1-0 to get closer to a place in the last eight.

Playing away, Ahly suffered a muddy pitch but despite the conditions in this group stage fourth round, Ahly’s Malian defender Salif Coulibaly was able to score the rescuer, a late goal in the 81st minute to secure their second win over Township in their second-leg match.

Ahly were disallowed a goal in the first half when the referee adjudged winger Walid Suleiman to have fouled Township’s keeper before Walid Azaro chipped the ball into an empty net. They also lost the efforts of Nigerian winger Junior Ajayi due to injury before the break.

“We played amid difficult circumstances today because of the referee and the poor state of the pitch, in addition to the bad treatment we got from Township, who violated CAF’s regulations,” said Ahly’s assistant coach Mohamed Youssef, referring to some logistical problems in Botswana.

The precious victory takes last year’s runners-up very near to a place in the quarter-final as they eye a record-extending ninth Champions League triumph.

Ahly recorded two straight wins under new coach Patrice Carteron, crushing Township 3-0 at home before beating them again on the road.

Ahly started off poorly in the tournament, claiming only one point from their two first group stage matches in Group A with a goalless draw with Tunisia’s Esperance, then suffering a shock 2-0 loss at Uganda’s Kampala City, before beating Township Rollers in the third round.

They are now second in the group with seven points, three behind leaders Esperance who have ensured their progress to the knockout stage. Kampala City and Township have three points each with only two matches remaining.

“Our win today and the three points we got put us in a very good position to advance to the next round,” Youssef added.

Township Rollers’ Serbian coach Nikola Kavazovic said he expected the Red Devils to qualify for the tournament’s quarter-finals alongside Esperance.

“I congratulate Tunisian Esperance for reaching the CAF Champions League quarter-finals and I expect Ahly to qualify also from the group,” Kavazovic told the post-game press conference.

“We played a good game against Ahly, who prepared well for the match and didn’t make any mistakes,” the Serbian coach added.

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