26 October 2017 09:22
It will be CAF Champions League final number 11 for Egyptian giants Al Ahly, yet their first ever against a Moroccan opponent.
Record eight-time winners, Ahly have lost only two other finals, but conspicuously missing from their list of final opponents is a club from Morocco, and Saturday’s final will be the first involving teams from the two North African countries.
With other 13 CAF tournament finals on their books, including four in the defunct CAF Cup Winners’ Cup (won all four), one in CAF Confederation Cup (won in 2014) and eight in CAF Super Cup (won six and lost two), Ahly has faced only one Moroccan side in the decisive match in a continental competition.
The only meeting was the 2006 CAF Super Cup, when Ahly faced Forces Armées Royales (known as FAR Rabat) a few days after Egypt won the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations. A goalless draw after 120 minutes meant that the game was to be decided via penalties, which Ahly emerged victorious 4-2 thanks to heroic saves from goalkeeper Essam El Hadary.
Besides the CAF Super Cup clash, Ahly has locked horns with Moroccan opponents in 16 games over eight different encounters. The first was in CAF Cup Winners’ Cup first round in 1984, when the Red Devils played against CLAS Casablanca (a club that was dissolved in 1995). A 3-1 win in Cairo was followed by another 2-0 win in Casablanca to see Ahly through, in a tournament they eventually won.
Three successive encounters against Raja Athletic Club in the CAF Champions League group stages followed. First was in 1999, and saw Ahly losing 1-0 in Cairo before forcing a 1-1 draw in Casablanca. In 2002, Raja won at home 2-1, and held Ahly to a 3-3 draw in Cairo. Ahly finally defeated the ‘Green Eagles’ by a lone goal in 2005, before drawing 1-1 away in the year they won their fourth CAF Champions League trophy.
Moghreb Tetouan were the opponents in 2015 CAF Champions League 1/8th round. Each side won 1-0 at home, and Tetouan shocked Ahly winning 4-3 on penalties.
On the other hand, final opponent Wydad Athletic Club has crossed the path of Ahly three times at the group phase of the premier continental club championship. In 2011, they held Ahly to a couple of draws, 3-3 in Cairo and 1-1 in Casablanca. In 2016, a barren draw in Alexandria was followed by a rare Ahly win in Morocco by a lone goal.
This season saw Ahly and Wydad again in the same group, with each side winning at home 2-0. Moamen Zakaria and Nigerian-import Junior Ajayi scored in each half to give Ahly victory in Alexandria last June, but for Congolese Fabrice Ondama and Walid Karti to emulate the feat for Wydad in Casablanca a fortnight later.
Overall Ahly has battled Moroccan sides in 17 games. The Red Devils have the upper hand with six wins, seven draws and just four defeats. Yet the most important clash is yet to come.
A stake is a cash reward of 2,500,000 US Dollars for the winner and the ticket to represent Africa at the FIFA Club World Cup in December in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.