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Al-Ahly close in on ACL groups after draw
Published in The Egyptian Gazette on 23 - 04 - 2013

CAIRO - Egyptian giants Al-Ahly are one step closer to qualifying for the African Champions League (ACL) group stage following a goalless draw with hosts Tunisia's CA Bizertin Club at October 15 Stadium, in the city of Bizerte Sunday, in the first-leg tie in the round of 16.
Taha Besri, a soccer expert, said that the performance of Tunisia's CA Bizertin Club was far below the level of Tunisia's Esperance and CS Sfaxien clubs.
"The return-leg for the Tunisian side will be completely different as the target will be disparate," Besri added after the game.
Only 1,500 fans were allowed to attend the game at October 15 Stadium for security reasons.
The ex-Zamalek star added that Ahly goalkeeper Sherif Ekrami gave confidence to the players, because of his outstanding performance, while left-winger Sayyed Moa'wad was also back with a bang.
"Ekrami played a major role in his team's draw, with his brilliant saves thwarting the Tunisians time and again. He was one of the best in the Red Devils squad," Besri explained.
Al-Ahly technical coach Hossam el-Badri imposed his style on the encounter, as he used his key players, the defenders, left-winger Sayyed Moa'wad and midfielder Rami Rabeia, to successfully block key CA Bizertin players.
Midfielders Hossam Ashour and Shehab el-Deen Ahmed were also brilliant.
The Red Devils, six-time ACL winners, need to win in the second-leg in Cairo in the first week of May, to qualify for the ACL group stage.
Still, Besri did point out that Ahly suffered from space between midfield and attack, despite Ashour and Ahmed's efforts to plug these gaps.
Farouq Gaafar, another soccer expert, stressed that Ahly got what they wanted from the game in Tunis.
"Ahly achieved a positive away result, as the club still has every opportunity of qualifying in the second-leg at home," the former Zamalek star said, asking the Red Devils to be more cautious in the return leg.
Ayman Younis, a soccer analyst, said that Ahly played for a draw, as coach el-Badri's line-up indicated. "El-Badri played for a draw, but they should have gone for a win, as CA Bizertin's performance was so modest," he explained.
Younis stressed the importance of controlling the midfield zone and then launching quick attacks on both wings to open gaps in the opponents' defence.
El-Badri was satisfied with the draw, although he had hoped to win in Tunisia.
"We got a good, but not decisive result. After all, I'm satisfied with the draw," El-Badri, 52, said in remarks to the club's official channel after the game.
"One of our goals was a good result and thank God we have achieved this, especially as we faced a well-organised team. I think the second-leg game at home will be better, despite its extreme difficulty," he added.
El-Badri stressed that he will be with the team for the Wadi Degla and Smouha matches in the domestic Premier League and then the CA Bizertin return leg; after that he will be off to Canada on his holidays.
Meanwhile, ex-Ahly technical coach Manuel Jose flew in to Cairo on Sunday evening from Italy for a visit lasting several days, during which he will meet with a number of Ahly officials and friends in Egypt.
There are reports that Jose has returned to join Ahly again, in the wake of rumours that el-Badri will leave the club.
According to press reports, Al-Ahly Tripoli of Libya have been expressing an interest in el-Badri, whose two-season contract with the Red Devils ends in May.
El-Badri was responsible for the team from 2009 to late 2010, leading Ahly to 2009-2010 Egyptian Premier League and 2010 Egypt Super Cup glory.
Al-Ahly football director, Sayyed Abdel-Hafez, said that the result is deceptive, adding that the team must score goals at home and not concede any, in order not to enter a complex computation.
"A goalless draw is the most dangerous result in football," warned Abdel-Hafez, pointing out that the players' experiences can enable them to win at home, in order to qualify for the group stage of the CAF, a classy tournament.
"Facing CA Bizertin at home will not be easy; we need to work very hard to qualify for the group stage," he explained.

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