08 November 2018 03:34
Buoyed by their home 3-1 victory last weekend, Egyptian giants Al Ahly left Cairo heading to Tunis, as they take on hosts Esperance in the decisive return leg of the 2018 Total CAF Champions League final. The 60000 Olympic Stadium at Rades will be the venue when North African rivals lock horns yet again on Friday (9 November 2018).
Walid Soliman scored twice from the spot, and Amr Elsoleya added a third goal while Youssef Belaili scored also from the spot when both sides clashed in front of 60000 fans in the Alexandria based Borg El Arab stadium last Friday, in a match highlighted by the use of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology for the first time in CAF Champions League history, and it was needed twice in the process.
Al Ahly need to avoid defeat by two goals to claim their record extending ninth title, while Esperance who are seeking their third trophy have to win with two unanswered goals.
Both sides know each other well, as they are playing their fourth fixture this term. They played in the group stage, settling for a barren draw in Alexandria before Ahly won 1-0 in Rades with Moroccan striker Walid Azaro notching the winner.
"We have won nothing yet", Ahly coach Patrice Carteron warned his men after the first leg. "Yes we have a good lead, but nothing is granted. We will play in Tunis as if it's a single final match. I'm sure my players will do their best to return with the trophy in their hands", added the Frenchman who conquered the continent with DR Congo's TP Mazembe in 2015.
Shall Carteron does it again with Al Ahly this Friday, he will join an elite list of coaches who achieved this feat with multiple clubs. Egyptian Mahmoud El Gohary won the trophy with Cairo giants Al Ahly (1982) and Zamalek (1993), while Argentine Oscar Fullone did so with Cote d'Ivoire's ASEC Memosas (1998) and Morocco's Raja Casablanca (1999).
"I'm not thinking of personal glory now, what's important is to win the trophy for Al Ahly. It was my priority when I came here and one step is yet to be completed", added the 48 years Carteron.
Ahly has to do so without a number of their key players. Veteran Ahmed Fathy grabbed a groin injury last Friday to join a list of absentees that include Tunisian import Ali Maaloul, Nigerian forward Junior Ajayi and veteran defender Mohamed Naguib. Midfielder Hisham Mohamed was also injured in the preparation process for the first leg, leaving Carteron with limited options for the decisive encounter.
At stake this weekend will be the cup, a 2.5 million dollars prize, and a place in the 2018 FIFA Club World Cup next month in the United Arab Emirates.