The African Champions League final promises to be a fierce battle

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The African Champions League final promises to be a fierce battle

Jakarta (ANTARA) – The final of the 23rd edition of the African Champions League between the Tunisian hosts Esperance and the Egyptians Al Ahly promises to be a tough battle, in the first leg to be played on Saturday (18/5) in Tunisia .

Al Ahly have recorded ten wins and eight draws in their 22 meetings at the elite continent-wide event since they first met 34 years ago. Al Ahly also managed to appear in the final for the fifth time in a row.

However, even though the club is nicknamed And Devils of Cairo are the favorites to lift their 12th trophy after playing 12 games without defeat until the final, Esperance is also worthy of consideration.

Nicknamed Tunisian club Blood and gold they returned to the final for the first time after winning the African Champions League twice in a row in 2018 and 2019. Like Al Ahly, they also have a good defense.

“All (African) Champions League opponents raise their game against Ahly. “We are the most successful club in Africa, so everyone wants to beat us,” Al Ahly coach Marcel Koller was quoted by AFP as saying.

Al Ahly have won 24 African titles in four competitions, 13 more than their closest rivals, namely Zamalek (Egypt) and TP Mazembe (Democratic Republic of Congo).

The two finalists recorded 11 clean sheets in 12 matches in qualifying, group stage and knockout stage. Both teams’ goalkeepers Mostafa Shobeir of Al Ahly and Amanallah Memmiche of Esperance have been surprising stars for their respective teams.

Mostafa, son of former Al Ahly goalkeeper Ahmed Shobeir, was promoted to main goalkeeper after captain Mohamed El Shenawy suffered a shoulder injury during the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations. When given the opportunity, Shobeir has performed well and has not conceded a goal in six African Champions League matches, leaving Coach Koller faced with the dilemma of whether to continue playing the young goalkeeper or trust El Shenawy again who has recovered.

Young goalkeepers are becoming stars

Esperance began their journey in the African Champions League relying on veteran goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifia who was also captain, but then became more familiar with the bench when 20-year-old Memmiche was given the confidence.

Promoted to Esperance’s main team as a teenager, Memmiche did not concede a goal in his eight African Champions League matches.

Al Ahly have a clear lead over Esperance in terms of their goalscoring record with a haul of 19 goals on their way to the final, while their opponents have only mustered nine goals.

There were contributions from 11 players to Al Ahly’s goals, with Hussein El Shahat (five goals) and Mahmoud Kahraba (four goals) being the two most prolific players.

Although he currently tops the list of top scorers in the African Champions League, El Shahat was not used in Al Ahly’s 3-0 win in the semi-final second leg against Mazembe.

South African winger Percy Tau is hoping to add just one goal to his tally in his team’s African Champions League campaign this season. Al Ahly also includes Mali midfielder Aliou Dieng, who has been out for three months with a knee injury.

Esperance coach Miguel Cardoso said reaching the final of the African Champions League was the highest achievement of his career. He had previously failed to achieve any results while coaching clubs in France, Spain, Greece and his native Portugal.

He took charge of Esperance in January, after the club was coached by Mouin Chaabani and Tarek Thabet for a short period.

Yan Sasse, who signed from New Zealand club Wellington Phoenix, has scored three goals in the African Champions League, but fellow Brazilian Rodrigo Rodrigues is yet to score a goal.

Other players who could potentially fill the first eleven include centre-back Mohamed Tougai and Algerian winger Houssam Ghacha, and Togolese midfielder Roger Aholou.

Reporter: A Rauf Andar Adipati
Publisher: Irwan Suhirwandi
Copyright © ANTARA 2024

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