SOUSSE - Amine Chermiti scored twice as Etoile Sahel of Tunisia defeated Al-Hilal of Sudan 3-1 this weekend to reach a third African Champions League final in four years.
Saber Ben Frej was also on target for Etoile as they squeezed through 4-3 on aggregate having lost the first leg of the semifinal 2-1 in Omdurman two weeks ago.
Prolific Nigerian scorer Ezeh Ndubuisi netted for Hilal, the first Sudanese club to reach the penulimate phase of the 3.5-million-dollar competition since it was revamped 10 years ago.
In the two-leg final, Etoile will face defending champions Al-Ahly of Egypt or Al-Ittihad of Libya, who were to play late yesterday at Cairo Stadium after a goalless first leg in Tripoli.
Etoile, based in the Mediterranean resort of Sousse, have won every African Football Confederation (CAF) club competition except the Champions League, falling to Enyimba of Nigeria in the 2004 final and to Ahly 12 months later.
This will be their fifth consecutive appearance in a CAF final, having won the 2003 African Cup Winners Cup and 2006 African Confederation Cup.
The "Red Devils" have also lifted the CAF Cup and African Super Cup. Cape Verde-born Etoile striker Gilson "Ja" Silva predicted Chermiti would be the key figure and so it proved, thanks to the predatory instincts of the tall Tunisian and woeful Hilal defending.
When a Mehdi Meriah free kick landed at the far post 16 minutes into the first half, unmarked Chermiti headed across goalkeeper Abubaker Sharif into the net and Etoile were ahead on aggregate under the away-goal rule.
Sharif never looked comfortable when the ball was in the air and missed a corner seven minutes into the second half, presenting defender Frej with the simple task of scoring his second Champions League goal this year.
Hilal hit back three minutes later as Ndubuisi claimed his eighth goal of the African campaign by volleying a deep cross past goalkeeper Aymen Methlouthi and into the net off a post.
But the failure of a Sudanese side bolstered by three Nigerians and a Mozambican to cope with free kicks proved their undoing again in the 63rd minute as Chermiti eluded his marker to head home off a hand of Sharif.
Chermiti seemed destined to complete a hat-trick in the closing stages, but failed with his boot and head as a capacity 30000 crowd at Olympic Stadium sang, danced and waved red flags. - Sapa-AFP