Ahly, Esperance clash in Champions League final

Soiliman(right)	got	Ahly’s	crucial	away	goal	to	the	grand	final

Soiliman (right) got Ahly’s crucial away goal to the grand final

AL Ahly of Egypt qualified to play Esperance of Tunisia in the CAF Champions League final despite a 2-1 semi-final second leg loss on Tuesday at Entente Setif of Algeria.

The record eight-time African champions advanced 3-2 on aggregate to the two-leg title decider next month having won the first leg 2-0 in Cairo 21 days ago.

Ahly will host the first leg on November 2/3 with the return match between the decades-old north African rivals the following weekend.

At stake will be a $2.5 million (2.2 million euros) first prize and a place in the FIFA Club World Cup to be hosted by the United Arab Emirates during December.

Walid Soliman gave Ahly a second-leg lead on 61 minutes before a 25,000 crowd crammed into the Stade du 8 Mai in eastern Algerian city Setif.

That left twice African champions Setif needing four goals to reach the final and Mohamed Bakir offered a glimmer of hope with a 67th-minute equaliser.

Hopes of a stunning comeback grew among the crowd when substitute Houssam Ghacha tapped a cross into an empty net five minutes later.

The Algerians needed two more goals in 18 minutes plus stoppage time, but Ahly closed ranks to repulse a wave of Setif attacks during the closing stages.

It was the first Ahly loss in eight Champions League matches since French coach Patrice Carteron replaced Hossam el Badry, who quit after a group defeat in Uganda.

Under Carteron, who coached TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo to the 2015 Champions League title, Ahly kept six clean sheets in seven previous CAF matches.

Veteran Soliman, who scored the opening goal of the first leg in Egypt, held off a challenge to steer the ball across goalkeeper Mustapha Zeghba into the corner for the lead.

The Fakir goal came gift wrapped from Ahly goalkeeper Mohamed el Shenawy, who pushed his shot from the edge of the box upwards into the net with both hands.

Veteran Abdelmoumen Djabou – known as the ‘Algerian Messi’ – set up the second Setif goal by outpacing a defender and crossing for Ghacha to score.

In Rades, Anice Badri netted five minutes from time to earn Esperance a 4-2 victory over Primeiro Agosto of Angola in a dramatic second leg.

Esperance qualified 4-3 on aggregate having lost the first leg 1-0 in Luanda and will now plan revenge for a 2012 Champions League final defeat by Ahly.

Mohamed Belaili, from a penalty, Mohamed Yakoubi and Haythem Jouini were the other scorers for Esperance, who led 2-1 at half-time in the Stade Olympique.

Geraldo had given Primeiro an early lead and Lompala Bokamba made it 2-2 on the night after 64 minutes before the Tunisians scored twice more to snatch overall victory. – AFP

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