Ahly defeated Ivory Coast's Sewe Sport 1-0 in Cairo in the African Confederation Cup group stage (Photo: Ahram)
Ahly must avoid the defensive lapses that cost them a positive result away from home when they host Ivory Coast's Sewe Sport on Saturday as they seek to make history and become the first Egyptian outfit to win the African Confederation Cup.
The Red Devils are the record holders of the elite Champions League with eight titles but they still have a chance for further glory in Africa's secondary competition, which has eluded Egyptian clubs in its old and new formats.
Ismaily went the closest when they reached the final in 2000 before losing to Algeria's JS Kabylie, giving Ahly an extra incentive to lift the trophy.
On paper, Ahly were firm favourites to beat minnows Sewe Sport but they had a largely disappointing night in Abidjan last week, with an error-ridden display giving the hosts a 2-1 first-leg advantage.
They were repeatedly exposed at the back and were undone by a late goal from substitute Franck Guiza after in-form midfielder Mahmoud 'Trezeguet' Hassan had cancelled out a 22nd-minute penalty from Koffi Kouame.
The back four were below-par but left-back Sabri Rahil was singled out for criticism after leaving huge gaps behind him, with Sewe Sport's forwards taking advantage by launching a wave after wave of attacks from the flank.
"I think that we were not forceful or aggressive in defense in the first leg. Sewe showed to be a great team with quality players," Ahly's Spanish coach Juan Garrido, who is eyeing his second trophy in charge of the team after helping them win the Egyptian Super Cup, said on his website.
"We must learn from those mistakes and be clear that in a final, the key is the defense being more aggressive and forceful than the opponent. It is not an excuse, but, the hour of the match, the heat and the conditions of the pitch weren’t the best for us."
Garrido was fuming following the surprise defeat, blaming the referee for disallowing a goal for defender Sherif Abdel-Fadil as well as handing a yellow card to Trezeguet, who will miss Saturday's finale due to automatic suspension.
Rahil could also be out due to injury, compounding the woes of the already depleted side, who have less than 17 players available in their Confederation Cup roster following the retirement and departure of a handful of players in the summer.
"I can honestly say I am worried because it seems that the referees want to show they are very brave by taking decisions against Ahly. That makes them take wrong decisions. I hope these serious mistakes are not repeated on Saturday."
Ahly will be boosted by the presence of up to 25,000 supporters at Cairo Stadium, having had to play their Confederation Cup games behind closed doors due to the ongoing crowd ban in home games.
"Our fans create a spectacular atmosphere. With their support, I am sure that our performance will grow a lot," Garrido added.
"We will play with pride to defend a country and with the motivation to bring happiness to millions of Egyptians. The history of Ahly has been made with the passion of their fans. The red shirt spirit always helps you to get great wins."
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