Egyptian giants Al Ahly have set up a showdown with Kaizer Chiefs in the final of the CAF Champions League after they defeated Esperance de Tunis 3-0 (4-0 on aggregate) at Al Salam Stadium in Cairo on Saturday night.
After Chiefs had toughed out a 0-0 draw to secure a narrow 1-0 aggregate triumph over Wydad Casablanca in Johannesburg earlier in the day, the Red Devils were able to put in a more convincing performance against a 10-man Blood and Gold, thanks to a first-half penalty from Ali Maaloul and second-half strikes from Mohamed Sherif and Hussein El Shahat.
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 opponents' defence on 26 minutes when Mohamed Magdi Afsha 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 Abdel Raouf 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Ahly shuffled their pack in attack at the start of the second half, with Taher Mohamed withdrawn in favour of Hussein El Shahat.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 Afsha, 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 Afsha 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.