Last Updated: Mon Nov 01, 2010 19:45 pm (KSA) 16:45 pm (GMT)

Etoile dethrone Ahly, grab Africa’s top trophy

Tunisian players celebrate ACL trophy
Tunisian players celebrate ACL trophy

Etoile Sahel of Tunisia stunned title holders al-Ahly of Egypt 3-1 Friday to win their first African Champions League title, against all odds after a goalless draw in Tunisia two weeks ago.

Victory was spectacular for the men from the Mediterranean resort of Sousse as they were crushed 3-0 by Ahly at the same ground of Cairo stadium in the 2005 African Champions League decider.

Lifting the trophy completed a clean sweep of CAF titles for Etoile who had won the Cup Winners Cup and CAF Cup twice and the Super Cup and Confederation Cup once.

Ahly, on the other hand, were seeking two records - a third consecutive title and sixth overall - but the early second-half dismissal of defender Emad al-Nahas turned a match the Egyptians looked set to win.

Etoile took the lead in first-half stoppage time through Afouene Gharbi only for Nahas to equalise five minutes into the second half of a thrilling climax watched by a capacity 50,000 crowd.

Needing to score again under the away-goal rule, Ahly laid siege to the Etoile goal until veteran Nahas was shown a red card by Moroccan referee Abderrahim al-Arjoun.

Ahly never regained their momentum with 10 men and survived a few scares before Amine Chermiti put Etoile ahead for the second time two minutes into stoppage time and Mohamed Ali Nafkha added a late third goal.

Dream turned into nightmare

Ahly controlled the early exchanges only to be foiled by the woodwork midway through the first when Angolan Flavio Amado put recalled Emad Moteab clear and his shot was parried on to the crossbar by Aymen Methlouthi and cleared.

Etoile, twice Champions League runners-up, became more assertive as the opening half drew to a close and they silenced a largely Egyptian crowd by taking the lead one minute into stoppage time.

Muri Ogunbiyi passed to stand-in captain Saber Ben Faraj on the right wing and his cross found unmarked Gharbi, whose shot was deflected past veteran goalkeeper Essam al-Hadary into the corner of the net.

Coach Manuel Jose swapped Ahly midfielders at half-time, replacing Islam al-Shatar with Hassan Mostafa, and five minutes into the second half they were level when Nahas headed home a Felisberto 'Gilberto' Amaral free kick.

The hero turned villain 11 minutes later when he professionally fouled Chermiti and Arjoun, giving one of the finest performances by a referee in an African club match, did not hesitate to expel Nahas.

No one outside Tunisia gave a team coached by Frenchman Bertrand Marchand a chance at Cairo Stadium after they were held 0-0 two weeks ago in the first leg of the African Football Confederation (CAF) club showpiece.

"We expected to win but not this way. 3-1 is a heavy defeat for Al-Ahly," Etoile's Hatem Bejaoui said.

Egyptian security forces were deployed around the stadium in expectation of trouble between the rival fans.

Tensions inside the stadium already boiled over as the trophy was handed to the Tunisians, with police intervening after Egyptian fans started grabbing Tunisian players.

Police took players from both sides and Al-Ahly coach Manuel Jose inside after fans began spitting on the losers.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak attended the game before 50,000 spectators at the sold-out Cairo International Stadium.

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