Al-Ahly gain early advantage in CAF Champions League final with win over Esperance

Ahly's Ahmed Abd el-Gaber (C) celebrates with his teammates (R) their goal against ES Tunisia during the CAF Champions League final football match between Egypt's Al-Ahly and Tunisia's ES Tunis at the Borg el-Arab stadium. (AFP)
Updated 03 November 2018
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Al-Ahly gain early advantage in CAF Champions League final with win over Esperance

ALEXANDRIA: Walid Soliman converted two VAR penalties to give Al-Ahly of Egypt a 3-1 first-leg win over arch-rivals Esperance of Tunisia in a bad-tempered CAF Champions League final.
Amr el-Soulia scored the other goal for the hosts at the Borg el-Arab Stadium in Mediterranean city Alexandria and Youcef Belaili converted a penalty for Esperance.
Ahly have won their last three away matches against Esperance in the premier African club competition and are favored to lift the trophy a record-extending ninth time after the return leg next Friday.
“We will fight for the title in the return match in Tunisia — we will be up against a team worthy of respect,” said France-born Ahly coach Patrice Carteron.
Esperance coach Moine Chaabani was critical of the Algerian referee, VAR, and yellow cards that ruled Chamseddine Dhaouadi and Franck Kom out of the second leg.
“If the intention was to steer the title to a certain team, why do we tire ourselves out, and the fans travel, and dream of the title? We will not give up.”
VAR (video assistant referees) was part of a Champions League final for the first time and referee Mehdi Charef twice used the system to rubber-stamp decisions.
Esperance goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifia made contact with Ahly striker Walid Azaro and the match official pointed to the spot before watching replays and confirming the penalty.
Cherifia correctly guessed the direction of the shot, but veteran Soliman struck it too hard and too high for the goalkeeper to have any chance.
The goal on 34 minutes gave the Cairo Red Devils a 1-0 half-time advantage that they doubled after 58 minutes through El-Soulia.
Soliman was the creator this time, crossing the ball low into the heart of the goalmouth where El-Soulia controlled it with his first touch, then poked it past Cherifia.
Rattled two-time champions Esperance clawed their way back into the game after 64 minutes via the only penalty of the three in which the match official did not use VAR.
Goalkeeper Mohamed el Shenawy clearly fouled Youcef Belaili with his shoulder and the Algerian struck the spot-kick under the body of the Ahly shot-stopper to halve the deficit.
But when an Esperance defender retaliated against Azaro in the box, the referee once again pointed to the spot and ran to the touchline monitor before confirming his decision.
Cherifia believed Soliman would aim for the same corner, but the veteran outfoxed him with a calmly-struck penalty to the other side on 77 minutes.
Both sides were foiled by the woodwork — Ghilane Chaalali for Esperance just before half-time and Soliman from a free-kick soon after his second goal.
The VAR penalties added to the drama in a match that was not for the purist with 48 fouls, five yellow cards and several head injuries preventing any rhythm.
Esperance captain Khalil Chemmam had to leave the field temporarily just before half-time with his face covered in blood from a head wound and Soliman also needed treatment.
Ahly winger Ayman Hamoudy was the victim of an off-the-ball challenge in the second half and, although obviously dazed, continued for a while before being substituted.
It was a match that bordered on the brutal at times with both clubs desperate to become champions, pocket $2.5 million and secure a FIFA Club World Cup place.
Esperance began and finished strongly with El-Shenawy needing to be at his sharpest in the dying minutes to avoid conceding a second goal.


Time for the Sun to shine on Hyderabad in the IPL

Updated 46 min 55 sec ago
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Time for the Sun to shine on Hyderabad in the IPL

  • Can MS Dhoni lead the Super Kings to another IPL title?
  • Who are the players to watch out for?

LONDON: The 12th edition of the Indian Premier League gets underway today with the usual razzmatazz, stacks of cash — in cricketing terms at least, pure conspicuous consumption — on display. This is the form of leather on willow that is as close to pure Americana as you are going to find.
As much as $15 million was shelled out at this year’s auction on 60 players. You only have to look at the riches the players are now earning to realize why every big-hitting batsman or wily bowler wants a piece of the IPL. Varun Chakravarthy went for $1.2 million, a millionaire overnight having not even played for his country.
Once again the Chennai Super Kings are the team to beat. Under MS Dhoni the powerhouses have won three titles — a record they share with the Mumbai Indians.
Here we give you the lowdown on cricket’s brashest format and take a peek into our crystal ball to tell you what we think is going to happen.

DELHI CAPITALS (8th last year)

Have only made the last four three times, finished rock bottom last year and decided something had to change. So they changed their name from the Daredevils to the Capitals, the new name as prosaic as their past cricket. They have added Shikhar Dhawan for power at the top of the order and to compliment the decent bowling attack of Trent Boult and Kagiso Rabada.
ARAB NEWS SAYS: The only way is up but will finish outside the top four.

RAJASTHAN ROYALS (4th)

The winners of the first IPL they have made the last four three times since. A look at their batting line-up — Steve Smith, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Ajinkya Rahane — will always trouble the opposition bowlers and with Jofra Archer and Jaydev Unadkat in the attack will always take wickets. Can they back up their impressive team sheet with equally impressive results?
ARAB NEWS SAYS: Will reach the last four but will miss the departing Stokes and Buttler who leave for a pre-World Cup training camp.

KINGS PUNJAB (7th)

An impressive spin attack of Ravi Ashwin, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Chakravarthy will once again prove that T20, once thought to be the graveyard for slow bowlers, is a game built just for them. They will look for West Indies legend Chris Gayle to find his big-hitting range early on to give them the totals to defend.
ARAB NEWS SAYS: Could prove to be the surprise package if, and it is a big if, their big names fire. We think they will just miss out on the last four.

Will Chris Gayle fire again this season? (AFP)

ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE (6th)

One look at their batting line-up is enough to give any bowler the dreaded yips. Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers could have their very own “who is the greatest short-form batsman of all-time” competition. The addition of Marcus Stoinis will give the side more balance and a chance of winning their first title.
ARAB NEWS SAYS: A side with Kohli and De Villiers cannot go three years without a top-four finish.

MUMBAI INDIANS (5th)

The Manchester United of the IPL, they have won three titles and with Rohit Sharma as captain, and a settled side — Kieron Pollard, Lasith Malinga and Jasprit Bumrah just three of the retained stars — will always be a danger. But they finished outside the top four last year and perhaps miss a bit of fire power in the batting department.
ARAB NEWS SAYS: Another year outside the top four.

Virat Kohli is dangerous no matter what the format. (AFP) 

KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS (3)

Last year’s top-four finish was a surprise and there is the sense they will struggle to match that this time around. With Windies stars Carlos Brathwaite and Andre Russell in the side and spin king Sunil Narine they will always have a chance but it is perhaps expecting too much to repeat last season’s surge to the semis.
ARAB NEWS SAYS: They will not be able to repeat last year’s heroics and will finish in sixth.

CHENNAI SUPER KINGS (Champions)

The team to beat, they have kept most of their title-winning side from last year and still have MS Dhoni — will he ever retire? — at the helm. It is hard to make a case for them not reaching the final, harder still not making the last four. If there is one possible worry is it that they have not strengthened much over the winter.
ARAB NEWS SAYS: In the last four.

SUNRISERS HYDERABAD (2nd)

Will still be smarting from their heavy defeat in the final at the hands of Chennai last year. They look to have the strongest batting line-up with Kane Williamson, Martin Guptil, Jonny Bairstow and David Warner to share the big-hitting responsibilities and with spinner of the moment Rashid Khan they will always be able to take wickets.
ARAB NEWS SAYS: Champions