Esperance de Tunis beat Angola's Primeiro de Agosto to reach the final | Al Ahly knocked out ES Setif in the semi-finals | Africa expectant ahead of the two-legged encounter
Esperance de Tunis and Al Ahly have fought their way through to the two-legged CAF Champions League final and will contest the biggest prize in African club football in November.
The Tunisian club have had to battle hard to get this far, not least in the semi-finals, when Angolan surprise package Primeiro de Agosto came within five minutes of claiming a place in the final at their expense. It was then that Esperance forward Anice Badri popped up to score his side’s fourth in a 4-2 victory that took Les Sang et Or (Blood and Gold) through to the final.
“After losing the first leg 1-0, we couldn’t wait for the return in Rades," Badri told FIFA.com. "We really wanted to make it to the final and we decided to go on the attack. We wanted to score early on and kill the match, but it was the Angolans who got the first goal. We showed that we’ve got character, though, and we managed to come back and reach the final. The atmosphere after the match was just fantastic.”
Did you know?
- Esperance lost to Al Ahly in their last CAF Champions League final appearance in 2012
- Al Ahly’s last CAF Champions League title came in 2013 when they beat South Africa's Orlando Pirates in the final
- Esperance played in three consecutive finals from 2010 to 2012, winning against Wydad Casablanca in 2011
- The two finalists met in the group phase. After a 0-0 draw in Egypt, Al Ahly won 1-0 in Tunisia
Badri’s late winner came about when team-mate Haythem Jouini flicked on a long ball for him to hammer home from close range. “The goals my team-mates scored were all vital too,” said Esperance’s saviour. “We really piled the pressure on to try and get the winner, and when it finally went in, you could sense the relief in the stadium. The atmosphere was amazing.”
This will not be the first time that Esperance and Al Ahly have met in a CAF Champions League final. The two sides came face-to-face in the 2012 final when Mohamed Aboutrika inspired the Egyptian side to victory - an occasion Badri remembers clearly.
“We know Al Ahly well,” the Tunisian international said, looking ahead to this latest confrontation. “The first leg in Egypt will be very tough. We’ll need to manage the situation well and then look to complete the job in Tunisia. They’re strong opponents and reached last year’s final, but we’re optimistic.”
Esperance will have the advantage of playing the second leg at their home ground in Rades: “Playing at home and in front of our own fans will help us a lot, especially as we’ll know what we have to do to win the competition. It’s always better to play the return match at home.”
Having represented his country at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, Badri is hoping to take part in a second global competition this year: the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018, a ticket to which awaits the winners of the biggest prize in African club football.
“Our goal is to win the Champions League and take part in the Club World Cup,” Badri said. “Like most of my team-mates, if not all of them, I’ve never played in the competition before. It would be fantastic to represent Tunisia and Africa in the UAE.”
Like the clubs that are already through to the competition, Esperance would relish the chance to play Club World Cup holders Real Madrid, as Badri confirmed: “If we can qualify for the Club World Cup, we hope to come up against Real Madrid. Playing in the competition would be a great reward for us.”
8 - The number of times Al Ahly have won the CAF Champions League title, a tournament record. Can the Egyptian club kick on and make it nine or will the Tunisians take the trophy for the third time in their history?
First leg: Al Ahly vs Esperance de Tunis - 2 November 2018 (Borg El Arab Stadium)
Second leg: Esperance de Tunis vs Al Ahly - 10 November 2018 (Stade Olympique de Rades)