International

Win or bust for Ahly in CAF Champions League

2016-08-11 14:41
Martin Jol (Getty Images)

Johannesburg - Al Ahly of Egypt coach Martin Jol accepts that only a victory over Zesco United of Zambia Friday will keep alive hopes of a record-extending ninth CAF Champions League title.

The former Tottenham Hotspur manager and his Cairo Red Devils appeared doomed to a group-stage exit after taking only one point from a possible nine by the halfway stage.

But a shock away win over Group A leaders Wydad Casablanca of Morocco has renewed hope that Ahly can secure a top-two finish and a semi-finals place.

Wydad and Zesco have seven points each and ASEC Mimosas of the Ivory Coast and Ahly four each with two match days remaining.

"We have to beat Zesco at home and ASEC away to reach the semi-finals," Netherlands-born Jol told the Egyptian media.

"Our magnificent supporters want another African title and it is an achievable goal. However, there can be no more setbacks - we have to keep winning.

"My players revel in difficult circumstances and showed great character to beat Wydad in Morocco after being held at home.

"We suffered from back luck in earlier group games," he said, referring to defeats away to Zesco and at home to ASEC.

The transfers of teenage midfielder Ramadan Sobhy to English Premier League outfit Stoke City and Gabonese striker Malick Evouna to China hit goal-shy Ahly hard.

Only Ghana-born striker John Antwi has scored more than once in the African campaign this season and that will concern Jol before facing Zesco in Mediterranean city Alexandria.

Zesco have exceeded expectations in a second group appearance and travelled to Egypt with a squad including stars from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria and Zambia.

Ahly need to be particularly watchful of Congolese Idris Mbombo and Zambian Clatous Chama, who have notched nine Champions League goals between them.

A Wydad team coached by Wales-born former Real Madrid manager John Toshack want to get back on the winning trail in Rabat after taking only one point of a possible six off Ahly after beating ASEC and Zesco.

The loss of form by star striker Reda Hajhouj must be a worry as he has fired four straight blanks in group matches after scoring six goals in six qualifiers.

Since shocking Ahly in Alexandria, 1998 champions ASEC have faltered, losing away and drawing at home against Zesco.

Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa have won Group B thanks to three consecutive victories, leaving Zamalek of Egypt and Enyimba of Nigeria to fight for the second semi-finals spot.

Five-time African champions Zamalek beat Enyimba away and one point from the return match in Cairo Sunday will guarantee their progress, if only on head-to-head records.

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