Ahly coach defends keeper Ekramy after howler against Esperance

Hatem Maher, Tuesday 6 Nov 2012

Ahly boss Hossam El-Badry leaps to the defence of under-fire keeper Sherif Ekramy after his howler allowed Tunisia's Esperance to score in the first leg of the Champions League final

Ahli's Sherif Ekramy (Photo: Reuters)

Goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy should not shoulder responsibility for Ahly's disappointing 1-1 draw at home to holders Esperance in the first leg of the African Champions League final, coach Hossam El-Badry said on Tuesday.

A howler by the inconsistent Ekramy, who is yet to win over Ahly fans after becoming the team's regular keeper, allowed Esperance to take the lead four minutes past the hour mark in Sunday's game at Borg El-Arab Stadium in Alexandria.

He was left motionless as Esperance's Walid Walid Hichri got ahead of him to head home a corner and stun the home crowd.

Ahly snatched a late equaliser via a goal from substitute El-Sayed Hamdi but many Ahly fans still pointed the finger at Ekramy for the disappointing result, which makes Esperance favourites to retain their title.

"Ekramy did a mistake, and such things happen. He cannot be solely blamed for the goal because there is a team playing with him, his not alone on the field," El-Badry was quoted as saying by Ahram Sport.

"No one remembers that he played a primary role in helping us top our group after producing a superb display (in the 1-1 group-stage draw) against Zamalek."

Al-Badry also stood by veteran playmaker Mohamed Abou-Treika, who was guilty of spurning two gilt-edged opportunities either side of the interval.

Abou-Treika was making his first appearance after ending a two-month suspension imposed on him by the club for skipping the Egypt Super Cup game against ENPPI in September.

"The criticism against Abou-Treika is exaggerated. He would have been a national hero had he converted the two chances he missed. The critics ignored the fact that he is a very influential and smart player who knows how to take positions and score," El-Badry added.

Ahly are still holding out hope that they can beat Esperance away from home and win a record-extending seventh continental title.

The Red Devils' medical team is stepping up its efforts to prepare left-back Sayed Moawad for the final second leg on 17 November after he missed Sunday's clash due to injury.

A Moawad return will be a major boost for Ahly, given that Esperance will miss two key right-sided players in Ghana's Harrison Afful and Sameh Derbali, who are ruled out of the second leg due to automatic suspension.

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