Al-Ahly told to up their game after reaching African Champions League final against Esperance

Al-Ahly told to up their game after reaching African Champions League final against Esperance
Esperance de Tunis’ striker Youssef Blaili scores a vital penalty kick against Agosto in their come-from-behind semifinal win in Rades. (AFP)
Updated 24 October 2018

Al-Ahly told to up their game after reaching African Champions League final against Esperance

Al-Ahly told to up their game after reaching African Champions League final against Esperance
  • Egyptian giants beat Algeria's ES Setif to reach two-legged final.
  • Al-Ahly to face Tunisian club Esperance, who beat Angolan outfit Clube Deportivo Agosto.

LONDON: Al-Ahly have been warned they have no chance of African Champions League glory if they do not go up several gears, after they held off a late onslaught from ES Setif to book an all-Arab final against Esperance de Tunis.
The Egyptian giants were cruising after the hour mark in Algeria as Walid Soliman put the visitors 1-0 ahead on the night and 3-0 ahead on aggregate. Yet two quickfire goals from Mohamed Bakir and Houssam Ghacha ensured a nervous final 15 minutes for the team from Cairo.
“I am happy for the fans,” Al-Ahly coach Patrice Carteron, appointed in June, said. “We all worked hard to get to this stage; the players and all the technical staff and it has been a great effort.”
It nearly all went wrong at the end as the Frenchman admitted.
“We made it hard for ourselves and not just tonight. We wasted a number of chances in the first leg that could have given us a bigger lead and then in the second leg we made mistakes to let Setif back into the tie.”
Despite the late lapses, the Red Giants, already the most successful club in African history, remain on course for a ninth continental title.
The first leg will take place in Cairo on Nov. 2, against the team from Tunisia.
“We will have to improve when we face Esperance,” added Carteron. “We need to cut out the mistakes, stay focused until the end and take our chances when they come. Then we can give the fans what they deserve.”
There was also praise for Soliman. The attacking midfielder scored in each leg to take his tournament tally to four this year.
“He is one of the best players in Africa at the moment,” said former Egyptian international Osama Hosny.
“He is in great form and if he can maintain that then Al-Ahly have a great chance in the final.”
It will not be easy. Esperance, continental champions in 1994 and 2011, showed considerable character to recover from a two-goal deficit against Clube Deportivo Agosto, to win the second leg 4-2 after losing the first leg in Angola 1-0.
A seventh final appearance was looking like a distant dream after eight minutes in Rades as Agosto striker Geraldo struck to silence 45,000 home fans and put the Angolans 2-0 ahead on aggregate.
The Tunisian giants hit back through a Mohamed Belaili penalty and it was game-on when Mohamed Yacoubi added a second 10 minutes later. Agosto restored control with their second away goal through Mongo Bokamba. But subsequent strikes from Haythem Jouini and Anice Badri, the winner coming five minutes from time, gave the home team a famous victory.
Interim coach Moin Chabani was delighted with the response and character of his players.
“This is a semifinal of a major competition and you always know that the games are going to be tough.” Chabani said. “We showed what we are made against a difficult opponent. The fans really played their part and kept us going until the end.”
Now attention turns to the showdown with Al-Ahly next month.
“We know that the final will be very difficult but we also know what we can do. We will look forward to the challenge as these are the kind of games that you have to look forward to,” Chabani said.