Monday,25 March, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1417, (8 - 14 November 2018)
Monday,25 March, 2019
Issue 1417, (8 - 14 November 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Don’t party just yet

Ahly go into the final of the African Champions League with a two-goal cushion but Esperance should not be written off, reports Abeer Anwar


Ahly players flying to catch the ball
Ahly players flying to catch the ball

When they meet on Friday 9 November, Ahly of Egypt should not be carried away by their 3-1 first-leg victory over Tunisia’s Esperance in the African Champions League final.

Ahly are eager to extend their record ninth African title while the last of Esperance’s two titles came in 2011. However, Ahly are playing the second leg away in Rades and are sure to come under fire from their opponent who feel they were robbed in game one.

On Monday, the Disciplinary Committee of CAF, the African Football Federation, suspended Ahly’s Moroccan striker Walid Azzaro for two games for ripping his shirt in the first leg. Ahly were also fined $20,000 while Ahly Coach Patrice Carteron has been called by CAF to hear his grievance. Carteron was quoted as asking for special protection after being hit by an Esperance player following the first-leg victory.

Ahly took a comfortable first-leg advantage after beating Esperance 3-1 at Borg Al-Arab Stadium in Alexandria thanks to two penalties from winger Walid Suleiman and a goal from midfielder Amr Al-Sulaya before a 60,000 crowd. Youssef Belaili scored Esperance’s only goal via another spot-kick in the second half.

Both clubs are desperate to become champions, pocket $2.5 million and secure a FIFA Club World Cup place.

“We delivered a good match and managed to get this comfortable win,” Carteron said in a press conference after the match.

“We will fight in the second leg in Tunisia to return with the title,” Ahly’s French coach said. “We will be facing a respectable team and we will have the proper preparation. We lost great chances in the first leg to raise the score and widen the difference to make our job much easier but we did not, so we should be stronger in the return match. Our players are experienced enough to deal with the awaited atmosphere in Tunisia,” he added.

Carteron said some sad incidents spoiled the joy of the victory after the match after being kicked by one Esperance player, while the Tunisian fans insulted Ahly players.“We will ask for special protection for our team in Tunisia. I hope the Tunisian government will make the effort to make the confrontation a football match, not a war in the stands,” the coach said.

“I have confidence in my players and also in their determination to return with the title,” the Ahly coach added.

Ahly Assistant Coach Mohamed Youssef said ahead of his team’s upcoming match that the two teams enjoy “strong ties” despite a refereeing controversy that arose during Friday’s first-leg encounter.

The controversy arose after Algerian referee Mehdi Abid Charef awarded Ahly two penalties which were vehemently questioned by the Tunisian side although Charef consulted the Video Assistant Referee (VAR). VAR was being used for the first time in a Champions League final and Charef twice used the system to rubber-stamp his decisions.

It was a match with 48 fouls, five yellow cards and several head injuries, preventing any rhythm developing.

The Tunisian Football Federation (FTF) held an emergency meeting of its disciplinary committee following the refereeing controversy, and lodged a complaint to CAF against Charef.

“We also ask the Confederation of the African Football to suspend Ahly’s Moroccan striker Walid Azzaro from taking part in the second leg of the CAF Champions League final in Tunisia as he didn’t respect the sports’ charter after assaulting an Esperance player,” the statement added.

“We know that the first leg was not the best on a technical level, but goals always decide the winner in the finals,” Youssef added. “We warned our players about letting in goals, but we finally managed to score three goals,” he said. He also said the return match will not be affected by the controversial first leg.

“We will go to Tunisia just to play football. We have strong ties with Esperance and we have been meeting every season since 2009,” Youssef said. “We respect the decisions of the Tunisian Football Federation. They are free to decide their rights,” he added.

The Esperance coaching staff also accused Egyptian security personnel of affecting the team’s preparations for last Friday’s match after taking what they said was too long to inspect their bus.

However, Youssef said his team underwent the same security measures, “especially after the recent terrorist attack in Minya governorate.”

Seven Coptic Christians were killed in an attack on two buses near a monastery in Minya on Friday.

Ahly have won their last three away matches against Esperance in the premier African club competition.

When the North African giants lock horns in the grand finale, it will be the second time they meet at the ultimate stage of the CAF Champions League. Both sides met in the final of 2012 edition, with Ahly winning 3-2 on aggregate to claim their seventh title.

Between them Ahly and Esperance count 10 Champions League titles, with Ahly the record champions having eight titles, and two for the Tunisians.

The 2018 final will be Ahly’s 12th appearance in the final (a record), losing on three occasions.

Esperance have reached the ultimate stage six times before, winning twice and losing four times.

Ahly announced on its official Website that winger Ahmed Hammoudi, 28, has been cleared for the second leg after recovering from an ankle injury he sustained in the first game, while veteran midfielder Ahmed Fathi will be absent.

The Red Devils flew to Tunisia on Sunday to prepare for the crucial game at Stade Olympique de Rades.

Borg Al-Arab Stadium officials said damage to the stadium by Esperance fans will cost LE500,000 despite security measures put in place. Sabri Al-Zarqa, head of Borg Al-Arab Stadium, said Ahly should pay for the damages even though they were not responsible but were the hosts of the event.

Ahly CAF Champions League finals
1982   Ahly - Kotoko (Ghana)    3-0
Kotoko (Ghana) - Ahly    1-1

1983   Ahly - Kotoko (Ghana)    0-0
Kotoko (Ghana) - Ahly    1-0
1987   Al-Hilal (Sudan) - Ahly    0-0
Ahly – Al-Hilal (Sudan)    2-0
2001   Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa) - Ahly    1-1
Ahly - Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa)    3-0
2005   Etoile du Sahel (Tunisia) - Ahly    0-0
Ahly - Etoile du Sahel (Tunisia)    3-0
2006   Ahly - CS Sfaxien (Tunisia)    1-1
CS Sfaxien (Tunisia) - Ahly    0-1
2007   Etoile du Sahel (Tunisia) - Ahly    0-0
Ahly - Etoile du Sahel (Tunisia)    1-3
2008   Ahly - Coton Sport (Cameroon)    2-0
Coton Sport (Cameroon) - Ahly    2-2
2012   Ahly - Esperance (Tunisia)    1-1
Esperance (Tunisia) - Ahly     1-2
2013   Orlando Pirates (South Africa) – Ahly    1-1
Ahly - Orlando Pirates (South Africa)    2-0
2017   Ahly - Wydad Casablanca (Morocco)    1-1
Wydad Casablanca (Morocco) – Ahly    1-0
Esperance CAF Champions League finals
1994   Zamalek (Egypt) - Esperance    0-0
Esperance - Zamalek (Egypt)    3-1
1999   Raja Casablanca (Morocco) – Esperance    0-0
Esperance - Raja Casablanca (Morocco)    0-0 (Raja won 4-3 on penalties)
2000   Esperance - Hearts of Oak (Ghana)    1-2
Hearts of Oak (Ghana) - Esperance    3-1
2010   TP Mazembe (DR Congo) – Esperance    5-0
Esperance - TP Mazembe (DR Congo)    1-1
2011   Wydad Casablanca (Morocco) - Esperance    0-0
Esperance - Wydad Casablanca (Morocco)    1-0
2012   Ahly (Egypt) - Esperance    1-1
Esperance - Ahly (Egypt)    1-2

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