Ahly set to be first Egyptian finalists
25 September 2014, 10:34
Nairobi - Al-Ahly are on the brink of becoming the first Egyptian club to reach the CAF Confederation Cup final.
The Cairo 'Red Devils' have home advantage and a 1-0 lead over Cameroonians Coton Sport going into the second leg of a semi-final this weekend.
A goal by diminutive midfielder Walid Soliman in Garoua put Ahly in the powerful position against opponents they have constantly had the edge over.
Ahly defeated Coton 4-2 on aggregate in the 2008 CAF Champions League final and on penalties last year in a semi-final of the same competition.
While Egypt are the dominant African club force with 31 titles -- including a record 18 won by Ahly -- the furthest they have gone in the Confederation Cup is the semi-finals.
Unfashionable Cairo outfit ENPPI reached the last four in 2009 before losing 6-4 overall to eventual title winners Malians Stade Malien.
Ahly, demoted to the second-tier Confederation Cup after losing a CAF Champions League final-round qualifier, have made steady rather than spectacular progress to the semi-finals.
A win and a loss against Zambians Nkana, a win and a draw against Ivorians Sewe Sport and two draws with Tunisians Etoile Sahel earned top spot in Group B.
Lack of goals has been the chief headache for Spanish coach Juan Carlos Garrido with only eight in nine games and no marksman managing more than two.
Some comfort for Coton is an unbeaten away Cup record this season with a win at Ivorians ASEC Mimosas and draws with Angolans Petro Atletico, Congolese AC Leopards and Malians Real Bamako.
They also boast a consistent scorer in five-goal Niger star Daouda Kamilou, a survivor of the losing 2008 final team.
The other second leg is harder to call after first-time semi-finalists Sewe established a slender 1-0 home lead over 2012 Confederation Cup winners Leopards.
Christian Kouame scored after a goalmouth scramble 12 minutes into the second half at the palm tree-lined Stade Robert Champroux in Abidjan.
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It is a slight advantage, but Sewe have won two and drawn one of four away games en route to the semi-finals and conceded just two goals in 360 minutes.
Behind a solid defence Sewe have Sylvain Gbohouo, one of the three Ivory Coast goalkeepers at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Leopards have been erratic lately, hammering four goals past Coton and past ASEC and then firing a blank against Sewe.
The biggest Congolese threats are likely to be teenager Kader Bidimbou and Cesaire Gandze, who have bagged 11 Confederation Cup goals between them.
Whichever sides advance to the final will have a long wait with the first leg scheduled only for the last weekend in November due to fixture congestion.