Record champions and title holders Al Ahly of Egypt enter this weekend’s 2014 Orange CAF Champions League first round second leg match with a tricky mission return. The Cairo giants lost to Tanzania’s Young Africans 1-0 in Dar Es-Salam last week and they have to score two unanswered goals at the very least if they want to continue their title defending campaign.
But Al Ahly will have to fight to reverse the first leg defeat deprived from one of their strongest weapons, the fans. The game is to be held behind closed doors for security reasons. Ahly however will have another weapon to rely on; history. The Red Devils never lost to a Tanzanian side in CAF interclub competitions at home. In six previous encounters with clubs from Tanzania, Ahly had ousted Young Africans (thrice), Simba, Pemba and Maji Maji with a 100% victory record. Their only other defeat to Tanzanian opposition before last week came against Young Africans’ bitter rivals Simba in the defunct CAF Cups Winners Cup in 1985, when Simba won 2-1 in Dar Es-Salam before Ahly qualified with a 2-0 victory in Cairo.
History on one side, future on the other; that’s what Ahly will be looking for this Sunday. The Reds are undergoing a rebuilding phase after the retirement of superstar duo Mohamed Barakat and Mohamed Abu Treika. Captain and veteran defender Wael Gomaa also announced that he will hang his boots at the end of this season. This will leave manager Mohamed Youssef and his technical staff with the tough mission of finding the suitable replacements to lead a new revolution at Ahly.
One of these rising stars is Amr Gamal. The 22 years old striker made his continental debut last year Champions League group stage game against Congo’s AC Leopards in Dolisie. With the long term injury of teammate Emad Metaeb and out of form El-Sayed Hamdy, Gamal set himself as a first choice striker for manager Youssef this season. Scoring 4 goals in the ongoing domestic season he is currently his team’s top goal scorer. And when manager Youssef gave him the chance in the 2014 Orange CAF Super Cup against Tunisia’s CS Sfaxien last month, Gamal was up to the responsibility producing a Man of the Match performance and scoring a brace to help Ahly win the title with a 3-2 victory.
“We had a very tough game in Dar Es-Salam”, Gamal told Cafonline.com before this weekend’s game. “I believe we didn’t deserve to lose. I had a couple of chances and we conceded a late goal. But I believe we will win and qualify this Sunday”.
The young striker was rewarded when he was called up national team duty for the first time ever this week. Newly appointed Pharaohs manager Shawky Ghareeb gave Gamal the chance to join the Egypt national team for midweek friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Austrian capital Vienna. “It’s a great honor for me to defend the national team colors. I hope to be up to the responsibility and seek new grounds with Ahly and the Pharaohs”, he concluded. Ahly entertains Young Africans (nicknamed Yanga) on Sunday 9 March, with the aggregate winner qualifying to the second round. Senegalese referee Badara Diatta will be the match official.
Confederation of African Football (CAF) News
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