Ahly cruise to fourth straight CAF Champions League final
Hussein el Shahat scored to give Al Ahly of Egypt a 1-0 win over Esperance of Tunisia on Friday, and a fourth consecutive CAF Champions League final appearance.
The record 10-time title winners won the semi-final 4-0 on aggregate after building a 3-0 first-leg lead in Rades seven days ago.
It was the fourth consecutive season in the premier African club competition in which Ahly have won a semi-final by four goals overall.
The Cairo Red Devils beat Wydad Casablanca of Morocco 5-1 in 2020, Esperance 4-0 the following year and Entente Setif of Algeria 6-2 in 2022.
Ahly will face Wydad or Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa in a two-leg final on June 4 and 11 with the first leg in Cairo.
The Egyptian club have bitter memories of Sundowns this season at the group stage. After drawing 2-2 in Cairo, they suffered a humiliating 5-2 defeat in Pretoria.
Sundowns host Wydad on Saturday and are slight favourites to reach a second final having forced a 0-0 draw in Casablanca despite finishing the first leg with nine men after two red cards.
Esperance coach Nabil Maaloul quit after the heavy first-leg loss and caretaker replacement Anis Boussaidi struck a hopeful pre-match note, saying "nothing is impossible in football".
But dreams of a stunning second-leg recovery by the Blood and Gold lasted just 22 minutes before El Shahat put Ahly ahead on the night at the Cairo International Stadium.
A brilliant pass from the halfway line by South African Percy Tau set El Shahat free and he fired the ball past goalkeeper Mohamed Debchi from close range.
After taking his Champions League goal tally to four for the season, El Shahat blazed over when well placed to score again soon after.
The second half was a repetition of the first with Ahly dominating possession, creating numerous chances, but guilty of wild shooting.
Substitute Ahmed Abdel Kader seemed destined to score with two minutes remaining after being set up by slick one-touch passing, but his close-range shot flew embarrassingly high.
Ahly reached a 16th Champions League final in the absence of captain and goalkeeper Mohamed el Shenawy, who was sidelined by a calf injury, and Ali Lotfy took his place.
Full-back Mohamed Hany was promoted to captain and, along with his fellow defenders, gave an Esperance attack including recalled veteran Anice Badri few scoring opportunities.