Friday Jun 25, 2021. 11:00
Esperance de Tunis will look for a comeback in their CAF Champions League semifinal tie when they face hosts Al Ahly at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo on Saturday 26 June, kick-off at 21:00 CAT.
The first leg in Rades last weekend saw the Egyptian visitors claim a 1-0 away win thanks to a strike midway through the second half from Mohamed Sherif.
This leaves the Tunisians with the tough task of trying to turn the tie around in Cairo and become the first team to win a knockout tie in the CAFCL after losing the first leg at home since way back in 1995.
Despite having this mountain to climb, and going through the ordeal of being accosted by angry supporters earlier this week, Esperance coach Moine Chaabani has remained composed and insists the semifinal tie is only at the halfway point.
“Things are not decided from the first match unless it’s a big result. In the semifinal coaches will work to finish things in the first match, but it will be a tactical confrontation at the highest level, and for me the match is 180 minutes in Tunisia and Cairo,” said the former defender.
The Tunisian side will also be pleased that the Egyptian Football Association has turned down Ahly’s request to have at least some fans present, meaning the game will be played in an empty stadium.
Ahly, meanwhile, are the clear favourites to advance and need only avoid defeat to advance to a second successive final under coach Pitso Mosimane and continue on their path of claiming a milestone and record-extending 10th African crown.
Despite this, Mosimane is taking nothing for granted: “Our players were able to deal well with the [first leg match]. They gave everything they had and therefore we were able to achieve a positive result.
“However, I made sure to tell the players that we have still not qualified yet to the final. Al Ahly and Esperance have a long history of games which prove that winning the first leg doesn’t mean that you’ll qualify to the final.
“We still have a game to play in Cairo and that is what captain Mahmoud El Khatib, Al Ahly’s president, said to the players after the game. Moreover, we respect Esperance and their head coach, as they are a big team in Africa.”
The aggregate winners will advance to face either South Africa’s Kaizer Chiefs or Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca in the final on July 17. Chiefs hold a 1-0 advantage ahead of hosting the return game earlier on Saturday evening.