Mon, Nov 19, 2012 - Page 19 News List

Egypt’s Al Ahly win African title for seventh time

Reuters, TUNIS

Al Ahly forward Nagi Ismail, right, vies for the ball against Esperance de Tunis forward Chaker Zouaghi, center, in their African Champions League final on Saturday at Rades Olympic Stadium near Tunis, Tunisia.

Photo: Reuters

Goals from Mohamed Nagui and Walid Soliman handed Egypt’s Al Ahly the African Champions League crown on Saturday following a 2-1 away win over holders Esperance of Tunisia.

A record-extending seventh title came at the end of a dominant, fast-paced performance that again proved Al Ahly’s big match temperament in overcoming a hostile home crowd at Tunis’ Rades Stadium to take the tie 3-2 on aggregate.

A mazy run from El Sayed Hamdi, who squeezed past muscular defender Walid Hichri to cut inside the penalty area from the left wing, set up the opening goal for Nagui two minutes before halftime.

Soliman made it 2-0 with a goal of some individual brilliance, bringing down a long defensive clearance with a superb first touch, rounding a defender and then placing his ball wide of the home goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifa.

That goal just after the hour mark effectively settled the destiny of the trophy with about 30 minutes remaining, as it left Esperance needing to score three times to hold onto their crown.

However, they could only manage a late consolation from Yannick Ndjeng in the 85th minute with a simple tap-in from close range. The Cameroonian import had earlier hit the outside of the post with another close-in effort.

Al Ahly squandered an 89th minute penalty after Ben Cherifa had needlessly given away a spot-kick with a rash challenge on Dominique da Silva, but then redeemed himself by saving the kick from Al Ahly’s talisman Mohamed Aboutrika.

Saturday’s success completes a year of triumph and tragedy for the Cairo giants. Al Ahly were playing Al Masry in February when 74 people were killed in a riot at Port Said, an incident that led to the suspension of Egypt’s domestic league.

Despite the lack of competitive action, Al Ahly showed no signs of being short of match fitness or sharpness, as they swarmed all over their hosts to win their first title since 2008.

They had been underdogs going into second leg, after Esperance had forced a draw away in the first leg in Alexandria.

However, if the Tunisians were expecting to dominate, they were quickly stunned by the pace of Al Ahly’s play and the chances they swiftly set up.

It nullified any advantage Esperance were expecting from a crowd of 32,000, given dispensation to watch the game in a country where soccer has been mainly played behind closed doors for the last year because of security fears.

Al Ahly now advance to the Club World Cup in Japan next month.

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