10th Champions League title beckons for Al Ahly

10th Champions League title beckons for Al Ahly
General view of Al Ahly players warming up

by Graeme Jackson

Friday Jul 16, 2021. 08:55

A record-extending 10th CAF Champions League title beckons for Egypt’s Al Ahly, who will look to defend their crown when they face South Africa’s Kaizer Chiefs in the 2020-21 final on Saturday night.

The match will be held at Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca, Morocco, with kick-off at 21:00 CAT.

Al Ahly head into the match as heavy favourites. Pitso Mosimane’s side had a minor slip by not finishing top of their group but then emphatically ousted Mamelodi Sundowns (3-1 on aggregate) and Esperance de Tunis (4-0 on aggregate) in the quarter- and semifinals respectively, underlining their pedigree and potency in continental competition.

The Red Devils will also have the advantage of being in playing rhythm: Ahly have racked up four domestic league matches since the second leg of their semifinal in late June, while Chiefs have not had the chance to play any competitive fixtures and could well be rusty heading into the final.

Mosimane has admitted that it will be strange coming up against a South African side, but he is fully committed to guiding Ahly to yet more CAFCL glory.

“I am a South African playing against my home team, a team I supported when I grew up. At this time, it is about me, my family and my team. They come first,” said the former Sundowns coach.

He added, “We are not a welfare or charitable organisation handing out stars [which signify CAFCL titles on a club’s crest]. Everybody must earn it. Al Ahly want to win their own ‘la decima’, they call it the ‘El Ashra’ here, and Kaizer Chiefs want to get their own star.”

Chiefs, meanwhile, have upset the odds all the way through their CAFCL campaign. They scraped through the preliminaries before edging out Horoya AC by the finest of margins (away goals on head-to-head count-back) to advance from the group phase, survived a storming comeback attempt from Simba SC in the quarterfinals and then defeated Wydad Casablanca 1-0 on aggregate in the semifinals.

Along the way the Amakhosi endured a miserable domestic campaign in parallel with their African exploits (which ultimately brought about the dismissal of manager Gavin Hunt), but reaching their first Champions League final is a major milestone.

“We’re just going to enjoy every moment of it because we’ve come a long way to be where we are,” said Chiefs attacker Lebogang Manyama.

“We should be very, very proud, but we want to go as far as taking [the trophy] and putting a star on our jersey.

“That would mean a lot because every Kaizer Chiefs fan deserves this after the rough times we’ve had without winning a trophy, and now all of a sudden, we’re competing for the biggest one on the continent. We have to do this for the badge.”

In head-to-head stats, Ahly and Chiefs have met in African competition just once before: the 2002 CAF Super Cup, which ended 4-1 in favour of the Egyptian giants.

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