Esperance stun Al-Ahly

UN RADES, Tunisia - Esperance of Tunisia upset title holders Al-Ahly of Egypt 1-0 on Saturday to get back into the hunt for an African Champions League semifinals spot.

UN RADES, Tunisia - Esperance of Tunisia upset title holders Al-Ahly of Egypt 1-0 on Saturday to get back into the hunt for an African Champions League semifinals spot.

The "Blood and Gold" had to win after collecting only one point from their first three matches in Group B and Salama Kasdaoui was the hero with a superb 38th-minute winner against "Red Devils" wearing an unfamiliar blue strip.

It was a classic 'route-one' goal with the Tunisian outsprinting veteran defender Emad al-Nahas to a long pass and volleying the ball past goalkeeper Amir Abdelhamid at his near post.

Former champions Esperance face Asec of Ivory Coast away in the middle of the month and host Al-Hilal of Sudan two weeks later. Two more victories would probably see them through to the penultimate phase.

Ahly, chasing a record third consecutive title, are still favoured to top the mini-league and a mid-month win at Hilal would not only secure a place among the last four but also assure the Cairo giants of top spot.

Victory was particularly sweet for Esperance as they suffered a humiliating 3-0 loss at Ahly two weeks ago and more than a dozen Tunisian supporters were detained for violent conduct.

This was the heaviest loss suffered by Esperance in decades of African combat and few gave them a chance of revenge, even with home advantage at the 60 000-seat November 7 Stadium on the outskirts of Tunis.

Watched by France-born national coach Roger Lemerre, Esperance were much the hungrier team and would have won more convincingly but for fine saves by Abdelhamid, standing in for injured Essam al-Hadary.

Despite the presence of stars like Egypt midfielder and 2006 African Champions League footballer of the year Mohamed Aboutraika and Angola World Cup striker Flavio Amado, Ahly rarely worried goalkeeper Hamdi Kasraoui.

Aboutraika, well off target from a couple of close-range free kicks, came closest midway through the second half when he dispossessed a defender and almost caught Kasraoui napping with a snap shot that hit the side netting. - Sapa-AFP

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