Football Football

Ahly on pole wary of Pirates hijack


AHLY-PIRATESABUJA, Nigeria, November 8 – Defending champions Al Ahly of Egypt go into the second-leg final of the CAF Champion’s League on Sunday at home in Cairo with a slight edge, but South Africa’s Orlando Pirates are vowing a fightback.

Ahly scored a vital away goal in the first-leg final that ended 1-1 in Johannesburg a week ago — to the huge disappointment of the South African champions who had hoped to keep a clean sheet at home.

But Pirates have proved a force to reckon with away from home in this year’s competition.

They booked their place in the final courtesy of an away goal at Esperance of Tunisia after both teams were tied on 0-0 from the first clash in South Africa.

Ahly skipper Wael Gomaa has already warned that Pirates play better on the road and so must not be taken lightly.

“When Pirates play away from their ground, they play much better,” said Gomaa, who will resume a key battle with Pirates striker Lennox Bacela.

“Their goal in the last minute will give us more courage to take the second game more aggressively and positively.”

Bacela will be a key player for Pirates but he said they have to be more clinical in front of goal in Cairo.

“We failed to convert our chances (at home) and it cannot be the same in Egypt,” said Bacela, whose team’s first and only triumph in the competition was 18 years ago.

“Ahly will be tough to break. They have the experience but I think we have the will, pace and skills to unlock any defence and cause problems.

“We believe we can get something out of Sunday’s game. The nation must also believe we can do so. Both teams have 90 minutes to decide… we will see who is the best team at the end of the match.”

Ahly showed class and experience in the first leg final, as they took the lead through Mohamed Aboutrika in the 14th minute and restricted The Buccaneers to long-range shooting as they tried to get back on terms.

The South Africans eventually managed to snatch a stoppage time equaliser in front of their fans inside a packed Orlando Stadium in Soweto.

“We have to try and break them down and I think we have the players and the ability to do so,” said coach Roger de Sa.

Seven-time champions Ahly wanted the second leg to be held at the 100,000-capacity Cairo International Stadium.

But African football’s governing body ruled the match be played at the smaller Arab Contractors Stadium, which holds about 30,000 spectators.

Pirates were dealt a big blow after it was confirmed that stand-in skipper Happy Jele and Andile Jali were suspended for Sunday’s showdown after they picked up their second bookings in the first game.

Jele’s absence is now expected to throw open the door for skipper Lekgwathi, who has been frozen out for several weeks, to return at right back, and Lehlohonolo Masalesa is expected to replace midfielder Jali.

Africa’s latest club champions will pocket a cash prize of $1.5 million (1.1 million euros) and feature at the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco in December.