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Al Ahly Take a Huge First Leg Advantage Over Esperance in Final

Al Ahly will take a massive advantage into next Friday’s second leg of the African Champions League final after beating Esperance de Tunis 3-1.

Egypt’s Al Ahly will take a massive advantage into next Friday’s second leg of the African Champions League final after beating Esperance de Tunis 3-1 in the first leg played yesterday at Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria.

Veteran midfielder Walid Soliman converted two penalties for the Red Devils after the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was consulted. Amr El-Sulaya was also on target for the home side while Esperance scored their only goal, which also came in form of a penalty, through Youcef Belaili.

Al Ahly are now firm favorites for the second leg in Rades where they will seek to win a record ninth Champions League trophy.

The Red Devils, watched by a capacity 50000 crowd, were fully prepared for the win, running Esperance ragged on a hot afternoon.

Their first real opportunity fell to captain Hossam Ashour, who was picked out by Walid Soliman from a free-kick, but the defensive midfielder’s header flashed just wide of Moez Ben Cherifia’s far-post.

However, the Red Devils’ pressure finally paid off just past the half-hour mark when they were awarded a penalty following a foul on Azaro by Ben Cherifia.

Azaro looked to have theatrically tumbled to the ground as he tried to skip past Moez Ben Cherifia following a defense-splitting pass from Soliman but the Algerian referee Mehdi Abid Charef pointed to the spot.

Soliman stepped up and made no mistake as he powerfully fired home to send the home fans into raptures.

The visitors then pushed for a quick response, but some good defensive work saw the likes of Youcef Belaili, Anice Badri and Ghaylene Chalali all fail to threaten Mohammed El-Shennawy’s goal.

At the opposite end, Cherifia pulled off a major save to deny Ahmed Fathi from finding the net, with a corner being the end result.

Four minutes later, Esperance could have leveled the matters when Kom was allowed space inside the Al Ahly box, but his shot sailed narrowly over the crossbar as the half ended at 1-0.

The hosts’ lead was further extended 13 minutes into the second half, with two Esperance’s centre-backs failing to deal with a tame cross from Soliman to leave El-Sulaya with the simple task of drilling home from close range.

Out of nowhere, Esperance’s forward Youcef Belaili earned a penalty after El-Shennawi clattered into him as he chased a free ball in the area. El-Shennawi dived the right way but could not stop the ball from going into the bottom corner.

The Red Devils responded through Saad Samir, but a goal-line clearance prohibited him from obtaining his first goal of the competition.

Chamseddine Dhaouadi was on the end of a delightful move for the visitors, but his indecisiveness in front of goal saw him miss the opportunity to get on the score-sheet.

Esperance were dealt a blow in the 75th minute, when the referee awarded another penalty to the Red Devils, again with referee consulting the VAR, after Azaro went down in the box in an off-the-ball incident. Soliman doubled the home side lead with an unstoppable penalty.
The visitors went close to scoring their second in the 86th minute, but Kom could only direct his header straight at El-Shennawy.

Al Ahly pushed for the fourth goal in the closing stages of the match with Soliman being unlucky to complete a hat-trick as his free-kick attempt rattled the woodwork.

How they lined up:

Al Ahly Starting XI: Mohamed El-Shennawy (GK) – Ahmed Fathi, Salif Coulibaly, Saad Samir, Ayman Ashraf – Amr El Sulaya, Hossam Ashour – Ahmed Hamoudi, Islam Mohareb, Walid Soliman – Walid Azarou.

Esperance de Tunis Starting XI:  Moez Ben Cherifia (GK) – Sameh Derbali, Chamseddine Dhaouadi, Khalil Chamam, Houcine Rabii – Franck Kom, Fousseny Coulibaly, Ghaylene Chalali – Anice Badri, Taha Yassine Khenissi, Youcef Belaili.

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