CAF Champions League 2020 - 2021

Esperance aim to turn the tie around

Esperance in Cairo to turn the tie around. Photo | Backpagepix
Esperance in Cairo to turn the tie around. Photo | Backpagepix


Egyptian giants Al Ahly will aim to close out their CAF Champions League semifinal against Esperance de Tunis when the teams meet for the second-leg match at Cairo’s Al Salam Stadium on Saturday evening (26 June).

Ahly hold a key 1-0 advantage from the first leg in Rades, Tunisia, last weekend, with Mohamed Sherif’s goal midway through the second half putting them in control of the tie.

Pitso Mosimane’s side need only avoid defeat to ensure they progress into a second successive CAF CL final and continue on their path for a milestone and record-extending 10th African crown.

History is on the Red Devils’ side, with no team losing a knockout tie after winning the first leg away from home since way back in 1995.

Despite this, Mosimane is taking nothing for granted: “Our players were able to deal well with the [first leg match]. They gave everything they had and therefore we were able to achieve a positive result.

“However, I made sure to tell the players that we have not qualified yet to the final. Al Ahly and Esperance have a long history of games which prove that winning the first leg doesn’t mean that you’ll qualify to the final.

“We still have a game to play in Cairo and that is what captain Mahmoud El Khatib, Al Ahly’s president, said to the players after the game. Moreover, we respect Esperance and their head coach, as they are a big team in Africa.”

Turning the tie around in Cairo is a tall order for the Blood and Gold, as they look to return to the CAF CL final for the third time in the past four seasons (following back-to-back triumphs in 2018 and 2019).

Esperance coach Moine Chaabani and his players were accosted by angry supporters earlier in the week, but the tactician has remained composed and insists the semifinal tie is only at the halfway point.

“Things are not decided from the first match unless it’s a big result. In the semifinal coaches will work to finish things in the first match, but it will be a tactical confrontation at the highest level, and for me the match is 180 minutes in Tunisia and Cairo,” said the former defender.

Esperance will also be pleased that the Egyptian Football Association has turned down Ahly’s request to have at least some fans present, meaning the game will be played in an empty stadium.

The aggregate winners will advance to face either South Africa’s Kaizer Chiefs or Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca in the final on 17 July.

Chiefs hold a 1-0 advantage ahead of hosting the return game earlier on Saturday evening.