Al- Ahly dodge Esperance in Champions League semis
Al Ahly won Group B of the CAF Champions League Sunday despite being held 1-1 by Zamalek in an Egyptian derby and dodged a semi-finals showdown with Esperance of Tunisia. Ahly face Sunshine Stars of Nigeria home and away next month while Group B runners-up TP Mazembe meet defending champions Esperance in a repeat of the 2010 final won convincingly by the Democratic Republic of Congo outfit.
The Egyptians were glad to avoid the Tunisians as they have a poor recent record against them losing a 2010 semi-final on away goals and losing and drawing in the group phase last year. Apart from a $1.5 million first prize, the teams are chasing a place in the FIFA Club World Cup to be hosted by Japan during December with the line-up including Chelsea of England and Corinthians of Brazil.
Mohamed Barakat levelled for Ahly midway through the second half behind closed doors at the Borg El Arab Stadium in Mediterranean city Alexandria after Mohamed Ibrahim broke the deadlock just before half-time. Ibrahim scored his second goal in as many Champions League matches by cutting in from the left, taking the ball across several Ahly defenders and unleashing a low drive past goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy into the corner. The equaliser came off a corner manoeuvre with the ball played to the edge of the box for Baraket to have a strike at goal which rebounded and his second attempt flew into the net off the underside of the crossbar.
Ahly completed a six-match schedule with 11 points -- one more than four-time African champions Mazembe -- after three victories, two draws and a loss in difficult circumstances. Already sure of a semi-finals spot, Mazembe surrendered first place after losing 1-0 away to Berekum Chelsea of Ghana with Jordan Opoku scoring 10 minutes from time.
Chelsea came third with nine points a creditable achievement in their first Champions League appearance and 12-goal Emmanuel Clottey is likely to finish leading scorer this season. Clottey scored hat-tricks against former Champions League winners Raja Casablanca of Morocco and Zamalek during his campaign and will line up for Esperance next year. Esperance fell 1-0 at ASO Chlef of Algeria in the final Group A fixture that had no impact on the table, but robbed the Tunis club of a record unbeaten run in the competition after equalling the 19-game streak without a loss of Ahly.
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