Confederation Cup holders Al Ahly of Egypt advanced to the group phase of this year’s competition with a win on penalties over Tunisia’s Club Africain. Egyptian and African football giants Al-Ahly kept alive hopes of retaining the CAF Confederation Cup with a penalty shootout victory over Tunisians Club Africain in a weekend playoff.
Hosts Club Africain won the second leg of the play-off tie 2-1 with a goal from Nader Ghandri in the eighth minute of injury time. ZouheirDhaouadi opened the scoring for Club Africain to give them hope of overturning a 2-1 loss in the first leg but EmadMoteabequalized for the eight-time African champions on the hour mark.
After beating Tunisia’s Club Africain atRades Stadium on Sunday to reach the CAF Confederation Cup group stage, Ahly coach FathiMabrouk has praised his players, saying he believes their spirit can help them retain the trophy they won last year.
“I appreciated the players’ performance during the game as they suffered throughout,” Mabrouk was quoted as saying during the post-game press conference. Ahly players managed to deal with the game’s hard circumstances that were divided into three parts.”
“The first difficult part was the early goal but that didn’t affect our players, the second was the forced changes we made due to injuries, and the third was calling a new goalkeeper from the bench to replace injured Ekrami,”Mabrouk added.
Club Africain had scored eight minutes into stoppage time to win the return match 2-1 and level the aggregate score at 3-3 after Ahly won in Cairo by the same score. The tie took a crucial turn during 10 first-half minutes when AbdeljalilJbira of Raja was sent off and Algerian Baghdad Bounedjah bagged a brace for Etoile. Ramadan Sobhy converted his shootout spot kick to give the winners of a record 19 CAF titles a 5-4 victory on penalties at the StadeOlympique in Tunis suburb Rades.
Ghandri’s late goal made it 3-3 on aggregate with both sides having scored an away goal forcing the tie to be decided on penalties with Ahly emerging victorious 5-4.
Ahly will face two more Tunisian sides, Esperance and Etoile Sahel, in the group stages along with Malians StadeMalien. The other mini-league comprises Congolese AC Leopards, South Africans Orlando Pirates, Tunisians CS Sfaxien and Egyptians Zamalek. Buoyant after winning the Tunisian title in midweek, Club Africain needed just seven minutes to go ahead against Ahly through ZouhaierDhaouadi.
“I am confident of players’ ability to complete their journey in the CAF Confederation Cup and retain the title,” the Ahly coach concluded.