Egypt's Al-Ahly cruise to fourth straight CAF Champions League final

Egypt's Al-Ahly cruise to fourth straight CAF Champions League final
It was the fourth consecutive season in the premier African club competition in which Egyptian team Al-Ahly have won a semi-final by four goals overall.
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Al-Ahly will now face either Wydad Casablanca or Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa in a two-leg final on June 4 and 11 [Getty]

Hussein el-Shahat scored to give Al-Ahly of Egypt a 1-0 win over Esperance of Tunisia on Friday, and a fourth consecutive CAF Champions League final appearance.

The record 10-time title winners won the semi-final 4-0 on aggregate after building a 3-0 first-leg lead in Rades seven days ago.

It was the fourth consecutive season in the premier African club competition in which Al-Ahly have won a semi-final by four goals overall.

The Cairo Red Devils beat Wydad Casablanca of Morocco 5-1 in 2020, Esperance 4-0 the following year and Entente Setif of Algeria 6-2 in 2022.

Al-Ahly will face Wydad or Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa in a two-leg final on June 4 and 11 with the first leg in Cairo.

The Egyptian club have bitter memories of Sundowns this season at the group stage. After drawing 2-2 in Cairo, they suffered a humiliating 5-2 defeat in Pretoria.

Sundowns host Wydad on Saturday and are slight favourites to reach a second final having forced a 0-0 draw in Casablanca despite finishing the first leg with nine men after two red cards.

Esperance coach Nabil Maaloul quit after the heavy first-leg loss and caretaker replacement Anis Boussaidi struck a hopeful pre-match note, saying "nothing is impossible in football".

But dreams of a stunning second-leg recovery by the Blood and Gold lasted just 22 minutes before el-Shahat put Al-Ahly ahead on the night at the Cairo International Stadium.

A brilliant pass from the halfway line by South African Percy Tau set el-Shahat free and he fired the ball past goalkeeper Mohamed Debchi from close range.

After taking his Champions League goal tally to four for the season, el-Shahat blazed over when well placed to score again soon after.

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The second half was a repetition of the first with Al-Ahly dominating possession, creating numerous chances, but guilty of wild shooting.

Substitute Ahmed Abdel Kader seemed destined to score with two minutes remaining after being set up by slick one-touch passing, but his close-range shot flew embarrassingly high.

Ahly reached a 16th Champions League final in the absence of captain and goalkeeper Mohamed el-Shenawy, who was sidelined by a calf injury, and Ali Lotfy took his place.

Full-back Mohamed Hany was promoted to captain and, along with his fellow defenders, gave an Esperance attack including recalled veteran Anice Badri few scoring opportunities.