Goals from Mohamed Nagui and Walid Soliman handed Egypt’s Al Ahli the African Champions League crown on Saturday following a 2-1 away win over holders Esperance of Tunisia.
A record-extending seventh title came at the end of a dominant, fast-paced performance that again proved Ahli’s big match temperament in overcoming a hostile home crowd at Tunis’ Rades Stadium to take the tie 3-2 on aggregate.
A mazy run from El Sayed Hamdi, who squeezed past muscular defender Walid Hichri to cut inside the penalty area from the left wing, set up the opening goal for Nagui two minutes before halftime.
Soliman made it 2-0 with a goal of some individual brilliance, bringing down a long defensive clearance with a superb first touch, rounding a defender and then placing his ball wide of the home goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifa.
That goal just after the hour mark effectively settled the destiny of the trophy with some 30 minutes remaining as it left Esperance needing to score three times to hold on to their crown.
But they could only manage a late consolation from Yannick Ndjeng in the 85th minute with a simple tap-in from close range. The Cameroonian import had earlier hit the outside of the post with another close-in effort.
Ahli squandered an 89th minute penalty after Ben Cherifa had needlessly given away a spot kick with a rash challenge on Dominique da Silva but then redeemed himself by saving the kick from Ahli’s talisman Mohamed Aboutrika.
Saturday’s success completes a year of triumph and tragedy for the Cairo giants. Al Ahli were playing Al Masry in February when 74 people were killed in a riot at Port Said, an incident which led to the suspension of Egypt’s domestic league.
Despite the lack of competitive action, Ahli showed no signs of being short of match fitness or sharpness as they swarmed all over their hosts to win their first title since 2008.
They had been underdogs going into second leg after Esperance had forced a draw away in the first leg in Alexandria.
But if the Tunisians were expecting to dominate, they were quickly stunned by the pace of Ahli’s play and the chances they swiftly set up.
It nullified any advantage Esperance were expecting from a crowd of 32,000, given dispensation to watch the game in a country where football has been mainly played behind closed doors for the last year because of security fears.
Ahli now advance to the Club World Cup in Japan next month.