Super semi-final

Alaa Abdel-Ghani , Tuesday 2 May 2023

In a clash of North African football giants, Egypt’s Ahly will meet Esperance of Tunisia in the semi-final of the African Champions League, reports Alaa Abdel-Ghani


Ahly went through after a 0-0 draw with Morocco’s Raja in Casablanca on Saturday in the second leg of the quarter-finals. Ahly had won the first leg 2-0 in Cairo.

The first leg of the semi-final clash will be held in Tunisia tentatively scheduled for 12 May with the return clash scheduled to take place in Cairo a week later.

Raja bowed out against Ahly for a second consecutive season, having lost to the Egyptians at the same stage last season.

The match in Mohamed V Complex in Casablanca was tepid with only two shots on target in its entirety, both coming from Raja.

The highlight was a missed penalty by Raja which could have swung things around but which banged off the crossbar late in the first half.

This will be Ahly’s fourth semi-final appearance in a row in the tournament in which they are the record holders with 10 titles. Their last foray was a 2-0 loss in last year’s final to Wydad of Morocco in Morocco.

Esperance, also known as Al-Taraji, a four-time winner of the championship, reached the semi-finals despite being held to a 1-1 draw at home against Algerian side JS Kabylie on Saturday night.

The Tunisians advanced thanks to their 1-0 first-leg win over Kabylie in the first leg of the quarter-final tie a week earlier.

South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns and defending champions Wydad are to meet in the other semi-final, again tentatively set for 12 May in Morocco.

Sundowns defeated Algeria’s CR Belouizdad 2-1 on Saturday. Their passage had been effectively sealed after a 4-1 dismantling of Belouizdad away from home.

Wydad made it to the final four in less dominating fashion following a 4-3 victory on penalties over Tanzania’s Simba on Friday after a 1-0 win in regulation time. Wydad had lost the first game in Tanzania 1-0.

Sundowns are in the hunt for a second Champions League title, defeating Egyptian side Zamalek 3-1 in a two-legged final in 2016.

Meantime, CAF, Africa’s football federation, said it “strongly condemned” the “unruly behaviour” by a section of supporters during the fixtures in Tunisia and Morocco, specifically citing the Esperance-Kabylie clash and that of Raja and Ahly in Casablanca.

CAF General Secretary Veron Mosengo-Omba said an investigation would be opened by the bodies concerned to take appropriate action concerning the two matches, particularly after the start of the second half in Tunisia was delayed for at least 20 minutes after some supporters threw objects on the field.

In the less prestigious African football tournament, the Confederation Cup, surprise debutants Marumo Gallants of South Africa secured a place in the semi-finals after edging Pyramids of Egypt 1-0 in the second leg of the quarter-finals at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in South Africa on Sunday.

The first-leg clash between the two sides ended in a 1-1 draw in Cairo.

Gallants will now face Young Africans of Tanzania for a place in the final with the first leg in Dar es Salaam this month.

It was a surprising early exit for Pyramids, of which much more was expected, financed as they are by Emirati businessman Salem Al Shamsi. They reached the final of the Confederation Cup in their maiden participation in 2020 before losing to Morocco’s RS Berkane. In 2021 Pyramids, the fourth richest club in Africa valued at €19.43 million, lost in the semi-final while in 2022 they were eliminated from the competition’s quarters.

A version of this article appears in print in the 4 May, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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