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Football: Ahly live dangerously before qualifying for CAF Confederation Cup


Ghazi Abderrazak (R) of Tunisia's Etoile du Sahel and Mohamed Farouk of Egypt's Al-Ahly fight for the ball during their CAF Confederation Cup soccer match in Cairo. Photo - Reuters

Abidjan: African club football giants Al-Ahly flirted with elimination this weekend before securing a CAF Confederation Cup semifinals place.

The lacklustre Cairo 'Red Devils' were held 0-0 at home by Tunisians Etoile Sahel, who wasted the best scoring chances of the final-round Group B match.

Ivorians Sewe San Pedro joined Ahly in the semifinals by thumping Zambians Nkana 3-0 on an artificial Abidjan pitch.

Ahly and Sewe accumulated nine points each from six matches with the Egyptians topping the table on the head-to-head rule.

Cameroonians Coton Sport have also reached the knockout stage and the other Group A place rests between Congolese AC Leopards and Malians Real Bamako.

Etoile travelled to Ahly, winners of a record 18 CAF titles, in poor form having lost away to Nkana and at home to Sewe.

Ahly also lost away to Nkana, but recently appointed Spanish coach Juan Carlos Garrido boasted that they would defeat Etoile at a spectator-less Cairo Stadium.

His optimism proved misguided and had Baghdad Bounedjah possessed more clinical finishing skills, Etoile would have advanced at the expense of Ahly.

Algerian Bounedjah twice found himself face-to-face with Ahly goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy, but hesitancy proved his undoing.

Ekramy, the son of a former Ahly goalkeeper, tipped over a Kaddour Beljelaili shot and the Egyptian international was grateful to see a volley finish just off target.

Lone Ahly striker Emad Meteb made no impression on a massed Etoile defence and was replaced by Burkinabe Moussa Yedan just past the hour.

Former Villarreal, Bruges and Real Betis manager Garrido must be concerned by the lack of goals with Ahly managing a meagre five in six group games.

The Cairo club parachuted into the second-tier Confederation Cup after losing to Libyans Al-Ahly Benghazi in the final qualifying round for the CAF Champions League.

Mohamed Youssef quit as coach soon after the Benghazi loss, leaving Fathi Mabrouk as caretaker boss until 45-year-old Garrido arrived last month.

Although the dominant nation in African club football, no Egyptian side have won the Confederation Cup since its introduction 10 years ago.

An early Hermann Kouao goal and two after half-time from Joseph Kameni and Roger Assale completed a strong finish to the mini-league phase by Sewe.

Bottom of the table with just three points from a possible 12 after foun rounds, the Ivorians clawed back into contention thanks to a shock victory at Etoile.

Sewe knew a win over Nkana would ensure a semifinals spot and once Kouao struck on 10 minutes there was little doubt as to the outcome.

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