Ahli stunned at Esperance
Sat, 4 Aug 2007 - 22:21
By: Hatem Maher
Esperance players celebrate their goal
Ahli have suffered their first African defeat in 10 months following a 1-0 loss against Tunisian side Esperance at Rades stadium in the CAF Champions League on Saturday.
Salama Kasraoui's strike seven minutes before halftime was enough to help Esperance avenge their 3-0 defeat to Ahli two weeks ago at Cairo International Stadium.
The Red Devils' defeat is their first African one since a 2-1 away loss to ASEC Mimosas last October in the second-leg of the Champions League semi-final, although Ahli managed at that time to go through 3-2 on aggregate.
Despite the defeat, Ahli are still in charge of Group B with nine points, three ahead of second-placed Hilal, who face ASEC later on Sunday.
Esperance are third on four points while ASEC lie at the bottom with just one point.
Ahli coach Manuel Jose fielded three half defenders and played with a lone striker in Angolan hitman Flavio Amado, supported by playmaker Mohamed Abou-Treika as Emad Meteb has been suspended by the club.
The Cairo giants' defensive tactics were not useful as Esperance dominated the entire first-half even though they created few chances.
The Tunisians looked much better than their last African encounter against Ahli in Cairo and were determined to make up for their disastrous performance.
Abou-Treika had the first sight of goal in the 19th minute when he sidestepped Esperance midfielder Ahmed Hammi before firing a powerful shot that went over the bar.
Hicham Aboucherouane replied six minutes later when he received a cross from the by-line before shooting from inside the area but Ahli keeper Amir Abdul-Hamid, who deputized for injured Essam Al-Hadari, palmed it away.
In the 31st minute, Sameh Derbali connected with a corner at the far post but headed poorly wide.
Kasdaoui struck home seven minutes later after Ahli defenders were caught napping to send the disbelieving Esperance fans into ecstasy.
Kamel Zaiem's brilliant long pass went past the back three to Kasdaoui, whose right-footed first-timer struck the left post and went into the back of the net.
Esperance could have doubled their lead five minutes after re-start when Kasdaoui's short pass picked out the unmarked Aboucherouane inside the area but the former Lille midfielder did not deliver from close range, thanks to Abdul-Hamid's block.
The Grinners continued their domination and wasted another opportunity in the 61st minute when Zaiem's powerful shot was denied by Abdul-Hamid's stretched arms at the near post.
Ahli midfielder Mohamed Barakat, striker Osama Hosni and newly-signed Reda Al-Weeshi were all introduced but couldn't make much difference in Ahli's display.
Esperance held on to their lead to grab a precious win which revives their hopes of reaching the Champions League semis.