Sweet CAF Champions League Victory for Esperance of Tunisia
Against expectations, Esperance of Tunisia stunned Al Ahly of Egypt 3-0 Friday night in Rades to win a third CAF Champions League title. They had trailed the eight-time winners 1-3 last week in the first leg in Alexandria.
Esperance also scooped N900 million ($2.5 million or 2.2 million euros) prize money, apart from qualifying automatically for the 2018 FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates. Participating in the Club World Cup by Esperance also guarantees at least another N360million or $1 million.
Saad Bguir was the unlikely two-goal star as he had been a reserve for most of the African campaign and started in the second leg of the final only because Cameroonian Franck Kom was suspended.
Anice Badri completed the scoring to give Esperance a 4-3 aggregate victory after losing the first leg of the final 3-1 with Ahly converting two controversial penalties.
A dominant performance by the home team at the Stade Olympique de Rades ended a 10-match winless run against Ahly in CAF competitions since July 2011.
After a tense build-up with Esperance furious at on and off-field treatment they received in Egypt, the match passed without incident before a large crowd in the 60,000-seat venue.
Esperance dominated a virtually incident-free first half and took the lead a minute into stoppage time through Bguir. Slick passing opened the Ahly defence and the midfielder struck the ball wide of goalkeeper Mohamed el Shenawy from close range and into the far corner of the net. It was a massive morale boost for the ‘Blood and Gold’, whose previous Champions League successes came in 1994 and 2011.
Bguir put Esperance two goals ahead on the night and in front overall on away goals when he struck again on 54 minutes.
Overlapping full-back Sameh Derbali crossed and Bguir found space to nod past El Shenawy from close range.Ahly needed a goal to get back in front on aggregate, but never troubled Tunisian goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifia and Badri put the outcome beyond doubt on 86 minutes.
He intercepted a pass in midfield, beat several defenders and unleashed a scorching shot that flew past El Shenawy.