Friday May 06, 2022. 17:00
ES Setif will look to spring another major upset in the CAF Champions League when they face hosts Al Ahly in Cairo on Saturday night for the first leg of their semifinal tie. Kick-off is at 21:00 CAT.
The Algerians were major underdogs in the quarterfinals against Tunisia’s Esperance de Tunis, but put in a brilliant defensive display to take the tie 1-0 on aggregate – keeping the blood and gold goalless for a full 180 minutes.
Coach Darko Novic is hopeful that his team can repeat the game plan against Al Ahly.
“We studied our opponent well beforehand and opted for a defence in the zone with tight lines in order to reduce the spaces,” said the Serbian tactician.
“It was then a question of waiting for the right moment to make the difference by taking advantage of the mistakes of Esperance. After the advantage was acquired, it was enough to maintain our lead until the final whistle.
“We will now try to continue the rest of the course with the same determination and the same spirit.”
The Egyptian heavyweights chasing a third successive African crown and a record-extending 11th overall – narrowly ousted Raja Casablanca 3-2 on aggregate in the quarterfinals and come into this clash having underwhelmed in recent weeks.
Pitso Mosimane’s side has managed just one win from their last five matches across all competitions, piling pressure on the South African tactician.
“The problem isn’t the performance, it’s the fact that we are wasting a lot of chances,” said Mosimane. “We created a lot of chances but we didn’t score. To me, a bad performance is not creating many chances.
“I understand that we are losing points we should get, and I agree with that. I am a professional, I see that and it’s a concern for me.
“Yes, we are not scoring the chances we are supposed to score, but it won’t determine our future.
“Also, good criticism is a source of motivation to me and my players. And if you’re worried about other people winning the league, don’t worry, we’ll beat those people.”
In head-to-head terms, Ahly and Setif have met in three matches dating back to 2015. The first was the CAF Super Cup, which ended 1-1 (before the Algerians won on penalties), while matches two and three were in the semifinals of the 2018 CAFCL – the Egyptians won 2-0 at home in the first leg, while the return game was won 2-1 by Setif, with Ahly taking the tie 3-2 overall.