Monday, July 9, 2007
The African Champions League resumed this weekend with some group action around the continent.
Al Ahly stayed on track for a record third consecutive African Champions League title with a 1-0 victory over Ivorian side ASEC Mimosas in Abidjan on Sunday.
Ace midfielder Mohamed Aboutraika (pictured) scored after 40 minutes in the Group B second-round clash to lift the 'Red Devils' of Egypt five points clear of Asec and Tunisian side Esperance.
Success was particularly sweet for Ahly, who were lucky to lose only 2-1 at Asec in the semi-finals last year having established a two-goal first-leg lead at home.
Collecting maximum points from arguably the toughest of their six group fixtures completed a wonderful week for five-time Champions League title holders Ahly.
Last Monday they came from behind three times to pip fierce Cairo rivals Zamalek 4-3 after extra time in the Egyptian Cup final and complete a second consecutive domestic double.
Ahly made six changes from the team that left it late before overcoming Al-Hilal of Sudan 2-0 in Cairo two weeks ago in the opening round of Group B action.
Among those introduced by Portuguese coach Manuel Jose was cultured Angolan midfielder Felisberto 'Gilberto' Amaral after an 18-month injury layoff that threatened to end his football career.
Gilberto fitted neatly into an Ahly team that soaked up first-half pressure before going ahead when Aboutraika pounced on a headed pass and goalkeeper Vincent Angban stood motionless as a low shot hit the net.
French coach Patrick Liewig rang the second-half Asec changes, sending on Marc Dion, Nigerian Mutiu Adegoke and Serge Deble to bolster the attack, but veteran Ahly goalkeeper Essam al-Hadary was rarely troubled.
"We played well, there is no shame in losing to Ahly," Liewig said.
"They have much more experience than us, that is the difference. I don't want to disrepect my team, they played very well."
In Sunday's other Group B match, Al Hilal of Sudan beat Tunisia's Esperance 2-0 in Omdurman, with Nigerian import Ndubuisi Eze scoring twice.
His first was set up by compatriot Kelechi Osunwa whose dribbling outfoxed the Esperance defence before he crossed for Eze to finish on 29 minutes.
The second saw Eze burst clear of the Tunisian defenders, pushing forward in added time for an equaliser, and beat Esperance goalkeeper Hamdi Kasraoui to a loose ball.
Esperance had few chances in their first outing under new coach Faouzi Benzarti, who replaced Frenchman Jacky Dugueperoux.
He was fired after the Tunis club was held at home in the opening group match by Asec last month.
(Thanks to the BBC for this information.)