Egyptian giants Al Ahly will represent Africa at the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco in December after winning an unprecedented eighth CAF Champions League title. A 2-0 win against South African club Orlando Pirates in Cairo on Sunday gave the Red Devils a 3-1 aggregate victory.
Al Ahly fans celebrateAfter a 1-1 draw last weekend, officials in Egypt allowed Al Ahly to play the second leg in the capital Cairo despite previous security concerns, and a capacity crowd of 35,000 packed the Arab Contractors Stadium to cheer their team on to victory. They created a carnival atmosphere throughout the game, singing and dancing, prompting even Pirates coach Roger de Sa to remark there had been a terrific celebratory background to the game.
Despite intense pressure from the start, Pirates managed to withstand the attacks of the home side in the first half and created several good scoring opportunities themselves, but both sides failed to find the back of the net. It took the Red Devils just ten minutes after the restart to get the goal they were looking for when the talismanic Mohamed Aboutrika found himself on the receiving end of a deflection off a Pirates defender. The Egyptian international did well to control the tricky ball before pushing it past stranded goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa to set off joyful scenes in the stands.
Although they were a goal down, the 1995 champions knew that a goal would be enough to equalise the tie, and so they kept their cool and created more scoring opportunities. However, they squandered the chances as they had done in the first half, and they were made to pay for their misses in the 78th minute when Ahmed Fathi's pass found Ahmed Abdel Zaher, and he had a simple tap-in from close range. The Red Devils were reduced to 10 men with seven minutes to go when international defender Sherif Abdel Fadil was sent off, but Pirates could not make their numerical advantage count.
Pirates coach Roger de Sa said that in the end, wasteful finishing had been the difference between the two clubs. "We created chances but failed to score, but they scored from the first chance that they got. They are just so clinical in front of goal, and I must say that they are deserved champions."
Moment of the gameAfter Aboutrika gave the home side the lead, Pirates had to push forward in search of an equaliser that would send the game into a penalty shoot-out. In the 63rd minute Sifiso Myeni sent Lennox Bacela into space and the striker did well to go around goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy, but then failed to find the target with the goal at his mercy. A goal would have evened the tie, but instead Ahly went on to clinch the match.
What they said"I will do everything in my power to try to convince [Mohamed Aboutrika] that he should not retire and play at the World Club Cup in Morocco. But it has to be his decision, and I know that he is thinking of retiring now that we have won," Al Ahly coach Mohamed Youssef.
Player of the gameWhen his coach substituted with just minutes to go, Aboutrika spent a few moments standing on the pitch waving to the crowd. The veteran bowed before going off, leaving the question open whether it was his last official game for the Red Devils. Also a scorer in the first leg in Johannesburg, Aboutrika once again played a vital part in his fifth Champions League winning side with Ahly (2005, 2006, 2008, 2012, 2013).
Stat of the Match8 -The number of times that Al Ahly have now won the showpiece event of African club football. Cairo rivals Zamalek have the second-highest number of wins in the competition but are three behind.
Have your say?Where does this achievement rank in the great career of Mohamed Aboutrika?