Saturday Jun 26, 2021. 23:04
Al Ahly have moved one step closer to a milestone 10th CAF Champions League title after booking a spot in next month’s final at the expense of Esperance de Tunis.
The reigning African kings defeated a 10-man visiting team 3-0 (4-0 on aggregate) at Al Salam Stadium in Cairo on Saturday night, setting up a showdown with South Africa’s Kaizer Chiefs in the final on July 17 in Casablanca.
Esperance created all the early attacking pressure, dominating possession and looking to carve a way through the lines of Al Ahly’s defence, though no clear chances came the way of the Tunisian side in the opening quarter.
The hosts gradually settled into a rhythm and almost opened up their opponent’s defence on 26 minutes when Mohamed Magdi Kafsha played a teasing ball into the box for Mohamed Sherif, but EST goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifa got there first.
Two minutes later Esperance had a couple of efforts in quick succession, with Abdelraouf Benguit seeing his long-range shot turned away for a corner by goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy, before Hamdou Elhouni dragged an effort wide of the target.
Past the half-hour mark a VAR-assisted call saw the referee award a penalty to Ahly and a red card to Esperance defender Ilyes Chetti, who appeared to haul down Taher Mohamed as the last man. Ali Maaloul converted the spot kick in the 35th minute to see the Red Devils lead 1-0 on the night and 2-0 overall.
Ahly shuffled their pack in attack at the start of the second half, with Taher Mohamed withdrawn in favour of Hussein El Shahat. The hosts were more aggressive and fluid in their build-up play, often finding space down the flanks to exploit.
The second goal arrived on 57 minutes, with Sherif’s intelligent movement allowing him to run onto a simple pass into the penalty area from Magdi Kafsha, and the striker easily slotted home with his left foot for 2-0.
Three minutes later Ahly added another, with a fantastic ball over the top from Magdi Kafsha beautifully controlled and finished off by El Shahat. The goal was initially ruled out by the offside flag, but then reviewed and ratified by VAR.
The Egyptian side created a slew of chances in the next 15 minutes but failed to convert any of them, before Esperance were able to reassert some defensive stability and at least ensure that an emphatic defeat did not turn into a thrashing.
Al Ahly (1) 3 (Maaloul 35’ pen, Sherif 57’, El Shahat 60’)
Esperance de Tunis 0
Al Ahly won 4-0 on aggregate.
Ahly: El Shenawy, Tawfik, Ashraf (Rabia 67’), Banoun, Maaloul, El Soulia, Dieng (Ajayi 58’), Fathi, Magdi Kafsha (Soliman 67’), Mohamed (El Shahat 46’), Sherif (Kahraba 67’)
Esperance: Ben Cherifa, Nagguez, Bedrane, Chemmam, Chetti, Ben Romdhane (Khalid 61’), Coulibaly, Benguit, Badri (Ben Hamina 41’), Elhouni (Tougai 79’), Togui