Al Ahly in seventh heaven after surprise win
© AFP

Al Ahly stunned Esperance Sportive de Tunis 2-1 (3-2 on aggregate) in Tunisia on Saturday to win a record-breaking seventh CAF Champions League and claim a place in December's prestigious FIFA Club World Cup. The result was similar to Ahly's 2006 title when they drew 1-1 at home in the first leg against Tunisia's CS Sfaxien and won away in the second leg.

Aboutrika out, Msakni in
Surprisingly Al Ahly coach Hossam El Badry dropped veteran midfielder Mohamed Aboutrika from the starting line-up, opting instead to give El-Sayed Hamdi a chance from the start. The striker scored Al Ahly's all-important goal in the first leg and he again put the Esperance defenders under tremendous pressure from the first whistle.

The Blood and Gold also came up with a surprise as they started with playmaker Youssef Msakni, who had been ruled out of the first leg after an appendectomy. Somewhat unexpectedly, Esperance sat back in the opening spell, allowing the visitors to have more of the play and create the better chances, with Abdallah Al Saied twice shooting over the crossbar with the goal at his mercy. Esperance, who knew that Al Ahly had to score once to stand a chance to win the trophy, seemed content to sit back and wait for breaks, coming closest in the first half through Cameroon striker Joseph Yannick Ndjeng, whose weak shot was easily saved.

Gedo changes the match
Shortly before the break, the 35,000 fans allowed into the 65,000-seater Rades Stadium were stunned into silence as Al Ahly took the lead. Hamdi set up Mohamed "Gedo" Nagy, whose his right-footed shot gave a diving Moez Ben Cherifia no chance. After the half, Ndjeng again was wasteful for his side in the 54th minute, and the Tunisians were made to rue the missed opportunity just seven minutes later when Walid Soliman doubled his side's lead after a long defensive clearance.

And although Ndjeng, who also hit the post, finally found the net for the home side with five minutes remaining on the clock, it was too little, too late. Having to score two more goals to retain their trophy, it was never on the cards for Esperance. Instead, substitute Aboutrika should have made it three for Al Ahly when the visitors were awarded a penalty in the dying minutes of the game after Cherifia brought down Mauritanian striker Dominique Da Silva. The goalkeeper however made amends for his challenge by saving Aboutrika's spot kick.
 
What they said
"We were a lot better. We scored two goals and missed many other chances. The coach told us to pile pressure from the very beginning and even after the goal he urged us to keep on pressing to grab the second and kill off the game. We wanted this trophy so much to offer it to the families and the souls of the Port Said martyrs," said Abdallah Al Saied, dedicating the victory to the memory of those who died in the Port Said tragedy in February.

Moment of the game
With their backs against the wall, Esperance were desperately trying to play themselves out of a corner in the second half, having fallen behind shortly before the break. Cameroon striker Ndjeng was looking dangerous for the home side upfront and it seemed only a matter of time before Esperance would score. Instead, it was Soliman who found the net in the 61st minute for Al Ahly, putting the game - and hopes of defending their title - beyond the reaches of the Tunisian team.

Player of the game
The 26-year-old Gedo is a man for the important occasion, having scored the only goal of the match in Egypt's 2010 CAF Africa Cup of Nations final victory against Ghana. On Saturday, the striker was on hand to give his side the all-important lead shortly before the break.
 
Stat of the Match
7 -
The number of times that Al Ahly have now won the competition. The Red Devils won their first titles in 1982 and 1987, but have become by far the most successful club since the turn of the century, repeating the feat in 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008 and this year.

Have your say
Are you surprised that Al Ahly had the edge on Esperance in Tunisia?