Preview: Humble Mosimane keeps Ahly's feet on ground ahead of Esperance clash

Hatem Maher , Friday 25 Jun 2021

Ahly take a 1-0 advantage into the second-leg of the African Champions League semi-final against Tunisia's Esperance

Ahly v Esperance
Ahly defeated Esperance 1-0 in the first leg

Pitso Mosimane is keeping his feet on the ground and refusing to get carried away even though Ahly are clear favourites to reach the African Champions League final when they host Tunisia's Esperance on Saturday.

The Red Devils look well-equipped to add a record-extending 10th Champions League crown to their trophy haul, having produced some efficient displays to take out an opponent after an opponent with a seamless ease.

Although they hardly produce the kind of attractive football that Mosimane used to master while in charge of South Africa's Mamelodi Sundowns, Ahly are still proving a formidable force, with their current strategy built on solid defence and laudable conversion rate upfront.

They had the upper hand in a 90-minute duel away to North African rivals Esperance in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final last Saturday, silencing the 5,000 home supporters with a no-nonsense performance to claim a deserved 1-0 win and edge closer to a second successive final appearance.

They created the better chances and were hardly troubled at the back, with a second-half strike from in-form forward Mohamed Sherif, a handful to opposing defences with his timely runs behind the lines, proving enough to secure an invaluable victory on the road.

Yet for all their dominance, South African coach Mosimane is taking nothing for granted.

Four-time winners Esperance fell to a 2-0 away defeat in the quarter-final first leg against Algeria's CR Belouizdad before storming back in the second leg to draw 2-2 on aggregate and snatch the semi-final tickets on penalties.

"It's not over as we still have another match that we need to finish," Mosimane said following the victory over Esperance.

"It is normal for Esperance to have an attacking game as they were playing at home in front of their fans. They wanted to achieve a positive result, but we were well-organized and managed to achieve an important victory.

"However, we still need to secure our qualification in the second leg."

With Mosimane taking another step towards a second straight Champions League triumph with Ahly, comparisons are already being drawn with Ahly's iconic coach Manuel Jose.

The Portuguese won four Champions League titles in two spells with Ahly, including two on the trot in 2005 and 2006.

"For me, I am not chasing glory and records. You must focus on the process and Al Ahly is a big team. There are big coaches who have done more than me with the club like Manuel Jose," Mosimane added.

Ahly will have to play amid empty stands at Cairo's Al-Salam stadium after having their request to lift a crown ban turned down by Egyptian authorities due to coronavirus concerns.

They are still misssing right-back Mohamed Hani due to injury, with Akram Tawfik, who excelled in the first leg, likely to keep his place on the flank.

Esperance defender Mohamed Ali Yaakoubi and midfielder Ghaylen Chaaleli are out due to a coronavirus infection and an injury respectively.

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