The final of the 2021-22 CAF Champions League at the end of May will be an all-Arab affair. In the semi-finals Wydad AC of Morocco defeated Angola’s Petro de Luanda 4-2 on aggregate while Egypt’s Al-Ahly emerged as 6-2 victors over ES Setif of Algeria. Here are five things we learned from the latest matches.
Setif had too much to do after first leg disaster
The tie was as good as over after 35 minutes of the first leg in Cairo. Percy Tau opened the scoring after half an hour. When Setif had Amir Karaoui sent off five minutes later it was always a case of damage limitation. The first leg ended 4-0 and there was no way that the Algerians were coming back from that against the defending champions.
It took the pressure off the Egyptian giants for what could have been a tough trip to face 60,000 fans in Algiers. Whatever nerves there were must have been dispelled when Abdel Kaber scored after just two minutes to silence the home fans. Setif, to their credit, kept going until the end and drew 2-2 but they just had too much to do after the first game. Al-Ahly have won the tournament ten times in the past and have rarely had such a straightforward semi-final experience.
Wydad have a tougher time
Wydad AC also did the hard work in the first leg against Petro de Luanda, winning 3-1 in Angola. A team with the continental experience that the Moroccans have — having lifted the trophy twice and reached the final on two other occasions — was not going to let such an advantage slip. They drew 1-1 in front of 45,000 fans in Casablanca.
It was not as easy as it sounds, however. Petro went for it and attacked the hosts with aggression and ambition and when Gleison opened the scoring after 21 minutes to reduce the arrears, there were plenty of nerves at the Stade Mohammed V Stadium. Wydad soon equalized on the night and the situation started to settle. The Angolans continued to attack and enjoyed 58 percent of possession and had 15 goal attempts compared to the eight from Wydad. It was a tough game that should set the Moroccans up for the final nicely.
More redemption for Pitso Misomane
Al-Ahly’s coach has come in for plenty of criticism from former Al-Ahly legends, much of it unfair, but he is one of just five coaches in the history of the competition to win the trophy two years running. Pitso Mosimane won in 2021 to add to his 2020 triumph. Now he could become the first coach to win three in a row. If the South African, who also led Mamelodi Sundowns to the 2016 title, does so he will also equal the four titles won by Al-Ahly’s legendary Manuel Jose. That would make Mosimane one of the most successful coaches in world football. If the man known as “Jingles” can achieve that, then even the demanding Al-Ahly legends will have to keep quiet, for a while at least.
The row over the final is likely to continue
It wouldn’t be African football if there was not some sort of controversy. This time, it started even before the semi-finals were over as the CAF decided last week, between the first and second legs, that the final would take place in Wydad’s home stadium in Casablanca. Al-Ahly were furious at the move and immediately launched a protest.
The anger is understandable, with one Egyptian FA board member pointing out that either the decision needs to be made earlier and not just after two teams have had convincing first leg wins in the semi final or the game should take place at a neutral venue. CAF stood by their call, explaining that Morocco was the only country that had stepped forward to offer to host the big game and that Al-Ahly would just have to accept the decision.
The Red Giants obviously have no choice but are likely to keep talking about the venue all the way up until the final starts. Misomane is an experienced campaigner who will not be averse to using the issue to fire up his players. Al-Ahly will need all the help they can get in a one-off game against Wydad in front of their own fans.
Another Morocco vs Egypt clash
As two successful and experienced teams in African football, it is no surprise that Al-Ahly and Wydad have history. They met in the 2017 final with the first leg in Egypt ending 1-1 and Wydad taking the title with a 1-0 win in the return match. It was a tense and tough battle with the main memory being the amazing atmosphere that was created by both sets of fans. In Casablanca, it was a vibrant experience as the supporters roared their heroes on towards victory. In all, there have been 10 meetings between the two giants in the Champions League, with each winning five. Either Al-Ahly will be celebrating an 11th title or Wydad will make it three. The national teams also met in the quarter-final of the African Cup of Nations in January with Egypt eliminating the Atlas Lions and going on to the last four.