CAF Champions League semifinals wrap-up: Al Ahly win big at ES Tunis, Sundowns holds first leg advantage against Wydad despite finishing with nine men
The final of the CAF Champions League is nearing as two teams likely for the finale have been revealed following first leg of the semifinals clashes.
Al Ahly and Mamelodi Sundowns are likely to meet in the final of the 2022-2023 CAF Champions League showing the superiority of the Egyptian Premier League and the Dstv Premiership.
Al Ahly launched a strong performance against Tunisian side ES Tunis in the first leg of the Champions League at Stade Olympique de Redes with a double from South African International Percy Tau and Mahmoud Kahraba giving Al Ahly a 3-0 win at Tunis.
The second leg in Egypt looks a done deal game for the Reds. If they progress to the final, they are likely to face their toughest game of the season against Mamelodi Sundowns who forced defending champions Wydad Casablanca to goalless draw at Mohamed V Stadium.
The PSL side were favouirtes for the tie having scored 35 goals as the highest scoring side in this season’s CAF Champions League. They have contained big gangs Al Ahly, Al Hilal and CR Belouizdad making their clash against WAC an easy to predict for the Brazilians.
With such a prediction, it was a correction judgment as Mamelodi Sundowns dominated and took the lead early at Casablanca after Peter Shalulile was played through on goal before the forward won run-for-the-ball situation and fired below Youssef El Motie but Ghanaian referee Daniel Laryea ruled the goal offside after VAR review.
WAC needed to be very strategic to contain free flowing Sundowns in 90’ minutes- arguably the best side in this term’s CAF Champions League.
Mamelodi Sundowns were reduced to 9-men after a red in each half of the game to Neo Maema and second half sub Marcelo Allende.
How Al Ahly thrash ES Tunis 3-0
Egyptian Premier League giants Al Ahly beat Esperance de Tunis 3-0 in the first leg at Stade Redes. South African Percy Tau scored twice before Egyptian Kharaba netted the third goal on Friday.
Tau, who turns 29 on Saturday, struck after eight and 55 minutes of the semi-final first leg in an empty national stadium on the outskirts of Tunis following crowd trouble there two weeks ago.
Mahmoud Kahraba completed an unexpectedly easy victory for the record 10-time African champions with a third goal on 75 minutes.
Cairo hosts the return match on May 19 and it is almost certain that Ahly will advance to a two-leg title decider against Wydad Casablanca of Morocco or Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa.
Operating on the right side of midfield, Tau has been consistently impressive for Ahly and his brace in Tunisia doubled a Champions League goal tally this season to four.
Unmarked just inside the penalty area, he opened the scoring with a shot that went into the net off the leg of goalkeeper Mohamed Debchi, who was deputising for the injured Moez Ben Cherifia.
If there was an element of good fortune about his first goal, Tau increased the lead with a brilliant solo effort to effectively put the outcome beyond doubt.
He ran across the pitch just outside the box, pursued by Mohamed Tougai, before unleashing a shot into the corner of the net with Debchi stranded.
Tau left Pretoria outfit Sundowns in 2018 for Premier League club Brighton, who loaned the winger to three Belgian clubs, before selling him to Ahly two years ago.
Hussein el Shahat set up the final goal with a low cross to the far post where the unguarded Kahraba raised his Champions League goal haul to five in this campaign with a tap-in.
The national stadium in Tunisia is a happy hunting ground for Ahly, who have won twice and drawn once in four Champions League semi-finals visits.
As anticipated, Mohamed Ali Ben Hammouda psoed the biggest threat for Esperance and, soon after Tau gave Ahly the lead, the Tunisian was just off target with a low deflected shot.
From the resultant corner, Yassine Meriah headed over when he should at least have forced a save from veteran goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy.
That was the closest Esperance came to scoring and, by the final whistle, they were a demoralised team who sensed their dreams of Champions League glory this season are over.
How Wydad and Sundowns drew 0-0
Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa forced a 0-0 CAF Champions League semi-final draw at title-holders Wydad Casablanca of Morocco on Saturday despite ending the first leg with nine men.
Sundowns were reduced to 10 men on 43 minutes following a pitch-side VAR review by the Ghanaian referee of an incident in which Neo Maema stamped on a fallen opponent.
Chilean Marco Allende, who came off the bench with 12 minutes left, was shown a red card for a studs-up tackle after another VAR check having initially receiving a yellow one.
VAR played a pivotal role in a cagey clash with a Peter Shalulile goal for Sundowns on 10 minutes awarded by the match officials, then disallowed after a review.
The outcome was not surprising given the closeness of previous matches between the clubs in Casablanca with Wydad winning four by one-goal margins while another was drawn.
Sundowns host the return match in Pretoria next Saturday and will be slight favourites to reach a third final. They finished runners-up in 2001 and triumphed 15 years later.
The first half was dominated by the rival defences with each team managing only one shot on target from five attempts.
Sundowns showed no nerves despite having to contend not only with vastly experienced opponents, but also an intimidating 45,000-plus crowd in the Stade Mohammed V.
The largely red-clad Moroccan supporters cheered and clapped every Wydad move while waving huge flags, and whistled and jeered virtually each time Sundowns gained possession.