Esperance return to African summit
Esperance de Tunis claimed their third CAF Champions League title
Tunisian international Anice Badri finished as top scorer
Esperance will appear at the FIFA Club World Cup for a second time
Tunisia's Esperance de Tunis have written a new chapter in African football history by clinching their third CAF Champions League title. Back at the continental summit after a seven-year wait, Les Sang et Or (the Blood and Gold) can now look forward to the world's biggest club competition, having secured a berth at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018 next month.
Third star The Tunis side's players and fans were hugely motivated to lift the trophy this time around. Esperance have finished runners-up on four occasions and were desperate to avoid a repeat of their most recent trip to the final, which ended in a loss to Al Ahly at their own Stade Olympique de Rades home in 2012. Facing the Egyptian outfit in the decider once again, Esperance were determined to manufacture a different outcome and seize the title for the first time since 2011.
Above all, they were able to draw confidence from an excellent campaign. Esperance were the first team to seal a spot in the quarter-finals after just four group stage games and they promptly marked themselves out as favourites by seeing off ES Sahel in a Tunisian derby. They then fought back from a first-leg defeat at the hands of Angola's Primeiro de Agosto in the semi-finals by triumphing 4-2 at home before digging deep again in the showpiece. Following a 3-1 reverse in Egypt, Les Sang et Or put in an impressive performance to defeat Al Ahly 3-0 in Rades and claim the mantle of African club champions.
Esperance's road to glory
Contested 16 games over the course of their campaign
Registered nine wins, four draws, and three defeats
Scored 26 goals (1.63 per game) and conceded 12 times
Title heartbreak After finishing second best to Morocco's Wydad Casablanca in last year's final, Al Ahly missed out on the trophy once again. Their loss to Esperance was perhaps even more painful, given their excellent form throughout the competition, as well as their healthy 3-1 lead after the first leg of the decider. That victory raised the hopes of the club's supporters, but the record eight-time winners were unable to add to their haul in their favourite competition. Last crowned in 2013, the Red Devils were hit by a number of key absences in the second leg against Esperance, as their title hopes evaporated.
Key player Despite the emergence of various talents at each stage of the competition, Tunisian international Anice Badri took most of the plaudits for his influential displays and eight goals during Esperance's path to victory. Having joined the Tunis side from Belgian club Mouscron, Badri enjoyed one of the best campaigns of his career, impressing as a midfielder, playmaker and forward. His crucial goal in the second leg of the final secured the trophy for his team and also earned himself the title of top scorer in the competition. Badri can now fulfil his dream of featuring at the Club World Cup, months after representing his country at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.
The surprise Angolan outfit Primeiro de Agosto turned plenty of heads, as the tournament's surprise package. This was just their 11th outing at CAF Champions League level, but they exceeded all expectations after finishing second behind ES Sahel in their group. Primeiro pulled off a major upset by ousting TP Mazembe in the quarter-finals and repeated the feat by downing Esperance in their semi-final opener before falling narrowly short of the showpiece. They were set to advance as late as the 85th minute of the return game, when the hosts made it 4-2 to end their fairy-tale bid. Overall, Primeiro contested 14 games, winning six, drawing five and losing three.
What they said "It was a very tough tournament. Our performances improved round by round and our dreams continued to grow. I congratulate all the players on what they achieved, especially the comebacks in the semi-final and final. We would like to thank the fans for their support and their faith in us until the end." Esperance coach Mouin El Shaabani
Did you know?
Having reached the final for a seventh time, Esperance won their third title after victories in 1994 and 2011
Esperance are set to make their second appearance at the Club World Cup. They took part in the 2011 edition and advanced to the quarter-finals
This is the fourth time Al Ahly have lost the final, with three of those defeats culminating in a reverse away from home
Esperance ended a run of ten games without victory against Al Ahly, their previous win coming back in 2011