Ahly will be eyeing a repeat of the 2006 and 2012 CAF Champions League finals when they eventually emerged winners following a 1-1 first-leg home draw as they visit Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca in the competition’s final on Saturday.
With Ahly and Wydad playing out a 1-1 draw at Alexandria’s Borg El-Arab Stadium last week, the Cairo giants will be taking heart from three African occasions going into the final game at Casablanca’s Mohamed V Stadium.
The first was in 2006, when a final first-leg against Tunisia’s Sfaxien ended with a 1-1 draw at Cairo Stadium before a stunning Mohamed Abou-Treika left-footed volley in stoppage-time gifted Ahly the title in extraordinary fashion.
The other was in 2012, when a similarly disappointing 1-1 first-leg home draw with another Tunisian rival in Esperance was followed by a 2-1 win in Rades – where Ahly took a two-goal lead through Mohamed Nagy ‘Gedo’ and Walid Soliman.
But these weren’t the end of Ahly’s exploits away from home though, with the Reds again drawing 1-1 with Esperance in the competition’s last-16 in Alexandria in September, before coming back from a goal down to prevail 2-1 in Rades and seal a semi-final berth.
Having proven they are capable of settling ties away from home in Africa three times before, Ahly will be hoping they would be able to repeat the feat against Morocco’s Wydad this time around.
"My players are experienced and know well how to handle the pressure in these situations, either with Ahly or with the national team,” Ahly boss Hossam El-Badry said upon arriving in Morocco.
“I just hope for fair refereeing in the game. Everyone has seen how the referee was in the first leg.
“We will fight to win the title in the return leg.”
After taking a second-minute lead through a terrific Moemen Zakareya strike, which was cancelled out by an Achraf Bencharki header, Ahly were denied what seemed to be a legitimate penalty after the break.
Speaking on the first-leg, Wydad manager Lhoussaine Ammouta said that Ahly were forced to play extremely harsh on starman Mohammed Ounajem – who will as a result miss the return leg due to injury.
“Unfortunately, Ounajem has suffered a knock due to the big troubles he was causing the Ahly defense,” Ammouta told Hesport.com.
“Wydad can’t sit back even if all we need is a goalless draw to win the title. Ahly have quality players in possession and could easily threaten our goal.”
Ahly will be missing key duo Hossam Ashour and Tunisia full-back Ali Maaloul, who has been instrumental for his side recently, alongside playmaker Saleh Gomaa through injury.
Natural center-back Rami Rabia has been able to fill the void left by holding midfielder Ashour, but young left-back Hussein El-Sayed will need to extremely up his game to make up for Maaloul’s absence.
After being rated doubtful for the game, center-back Mohamed Naguib has been declared fit by the team doctor, meaning Ahly have no major absences apart from the aforementioned trio.
Record champions Ahly have eight Champions League titles in their trophy-laden cabinet, while Wydad won the competition only once in their history.
The winner qualifies for the Club World Cup, where Ahly had previously won a bronze medal in 2006. The competition takes place next month in the UAE.
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