Al Ahly recently won their first CAF Champions League title since 2013
They overcame arch-rivals Zamalek to snatch a FIFA Club World Cup ticket
FIFA.com reviews their ninth conquest
Over the past three years, Al Ahly experienced disappointments that may have sunk lesser clubs. The Egyptian giants saw the CAF Champions League title elude them at the final hurdle in successive seasons – first in 2017, when they were beaten 2-1 on aggregate by Wydad Casablanca, and then in 2018, when they fell to a 3-0 defeat away to Esperance, having won the first leg 3-1 in Cairo.
Al Ahly’s campaign ended at the quarter-final stage in 2019 on the back of a 5-1 aggregate loss to Mamelodi Sundowns, but the Red Devils were not about to give up on their dreams of securing their ninth title.
🦅 One of the most passionately supported clubs on earth is set to take on the world! 🌍
Undeterred by these setbacks, and despite all the disruption brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the tournament being delayed by several months prior to the semi-finals, Al Ahly kept their nerve and ultimately won a trophy that had eluded them since 2013.
Al Ahly cruised into the group stage, dispatching Atlabara of South Sudan and Cano Sport of Equatorial Guinea before losing their first group game 1-0 away to Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia. Home wins over Al Hilal of Sudan, 2-1, and 2-0 over Platinum of Zimbabwe were followed by a valuable point gained from a 1-1 draw in the return fixture in Zimbabwe.
The Red Devils then earned revenge over Etoile du Sahel via a 1-0 home win, before securing second place in the group and a place in the knockout stages via a 1-1 draw at Al Hilal.
In the quarter-finals, Al Ahly avenged their 2019 defeat to Mamelodi Sundowns by beating them 2-0 in Cairo before drawing 1-1 in Pretoria. In the last four, the Red Devils thrashed Wydad Casablanca 5-1 on aggregate before defeating arch-rivals Zamalek 2-1 in a memorable final. Amr El Soleya put the Red Devils ahead, Shikabala leveled it for Zamalek, before Mohamed ‘Afsha’ Magdy scored the late winner for Ahly.
“Along with the final, the quarter-final against Sundowns was the toughest challenge because we wanted to avenge last year’s defeat. We won the final against Zamalek despite not playing as well as we did against Wydad in the semis. Mosimane knows Africa well and he made the Champions League title his main target.” Hussein El Shahat, Al Ahly forward
“Zamalek were better in the final, and I wasn’t surprised when Shikabala scored the equaliser because they pressed hard. The opposite happened in the Egyptian Super Cup, when we played better but Zamalek won.” Mohamed El Shenawy, Al Ahly goalkeeper
Did you know?
Al Ahly have experienced highs and lows at the hands of Pitso Mosimane. The South African was in charge of Mamelodi Sundowns when they eliminated Al Ahly in 2019, but was appointed head coach of the Red Devils prior to the semi-finals in 2020.
Canelo Alvarez next fight: Mexican superstar expected to face Avni Yildirim at super middleweight in February
Canelo Alvarez is ready for his next challenge. The unified super middleweight champion is expected to take on Avni Yildirim — the WBC mandatory challenger — on Feb. 27, Canelo’s trainer and manager, Eddy Reynoso, told Boxing Scene. According to both The Athletic and Sports Illustrated, the fight is expected to take place at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.
Alvarez claimed the WBA and vacant WBC super middleweight titles on Dec. 19 with a decision win over Callum Smith in Texas. The pound-for-pound great had been out of action for nearly a year due to the pandemic as well as contractual disputes with Golden Boy Promotions and streaming partner DAZN. Alvarez reached a deal with both in the fall to become a free agent and open up the possibility of fighting whomever he wants.
Sports Illustrated’s report notes that this is the first matchup in a multi-fight deal between Alvarez and Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, who promoted Alvarez’s recent win over Smith. Under this agreement, the expectation is that Alvarez would face Billy Joe Saunders at 168 pounds in May.
Yildirim, the 29-year-old from Turkey, has only lost twice as a pro. That includes his most recent bout against Anthony Dirrell in February 2019 when an accident headbutt in the 10th round ended the fight and sent it to the judges’ scorecards. Yilidirim lost on points. His only other loss came in his only other bout against higher-level competition when he was knocked out by Chris Eubank Jr. in 2017.
Joe Root is backing his young openers to come through the tough initiation of a maiden Test tour of Asia stronger for the experience.
Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley both failed to reach double figures in either innings of the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle and both fell to spin, the same spinner in fact, each time.
Sibley got a faint edge to a ball from left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya which drifted in and spun away slightly for a slips catch while on 4 in the first innings before Crawley chipped to mid-off for 9. On 2 in the second innings, Sibley appeared stunned by Embuldeniya’s arm ball which took the top of off stump, and Crawley fell for 8 to an ill-conceived drive taken at gully.
But Root believed Sibley and Crawley, who are 13 and 9 matches respectively into their Test careers, were in the best position to learn fast.
“They are doing all the right things in practice and giving themselves the best opportunity when they walk out to play,” Root said. “It didn’t quite fall for them this time but they are quick and smart learners who will be looking to turn things round in the next game.
“It is very exciting that the work ethic is there and it is a great chance for them to adjust quickly to these conditions and show everyone that they’ve got the game to perform out here. At times in these conditions out here, opening the batting can be the best time to bat. On that wicket in the second innings, it was probably the trickiest time to bat. It is very rare that is the case and they will have to learn from that.”
With regular opener Rory Burns headed to India after paternity leave as England begin the second Test, also in Galle, on Friday, Crawley, who scored a warm-up match century on the aborted tour of Sri Lanka early last year, can return to his “favoured position” at No. 3 when that swing of the tour begins. But a solid performance at the very top of the order beforehand would be a welcome confidence boost.
Likewise, Sibley will be keen to turn things around before facing sterner opposition in India.
“I see it as an opportunity to show that they can play in these conditions and I also see it as being part and parcel of Test cricket,” Root added. “You need to know how to play in these conditions and not only will it benefit them long term playing in Asia but also in matches where pitches do deteriorate late on anywhere in the world and start spinning drastically. You’ve got to have a game for it.
“These tours and these games are all about winning but the experience you get can really benefit you further in your career if you have the right attitude and go about it in the right manner. I feel like they are doing that and that is the best thing they can do, keep wanting to get better, keep wanting to learn and take as much from the experience as they can.”
Root will expect ruthlessness from his side in the second Test against Sri Lanka.
England won the first Test by seven wickets early on the last day but, by Root’s own admission, it was by no means a perfect performance. Having skittled Sri Lanka for 135 in the first innings and then put on 421 in response, built on Root’s 228 and supported by debutant Dan Lawrence’s 73 at No.5, they were made to work considerably harder as Sri Lanka posted a second-innings 359.
“You look at the best teams in the world who are winning consistently and that’s a trait you see over and over again and that is something we want, to be associated with being a side who – when they get on top – can see it through,” Root said.
England secured victory comfortably in the end and Root wants to see more of the same when the sides return to Galle, especially ahead of four Tests against India, who vanquished Australia at the Gabba to seal a thrilling 2-1 series triumph.
“India have got tremendous depth in all departments,” Root said. “They’re a side with resilience and character and we know we will have to be at our best when we go out there.
“We’ve certainly played some good cricket and are shaping up very nicely, now it’s a question of whether we can carry on in the manner we are and continue to improve.
Root was at pains not to look much beyond the match at hand, however, where England will contemplate picking Olly Stone to make only his second Test appearance as they look to rotate their seamers.
“It’s certainly an option,”. Root said. “We couldn’t be more impressed with how he’s gone about his business. He looks fit, strong, he’s bowling quick and he’s given a very good account of himself.
“There might be an opportunity for him to play on this tour, whether that’s this week or further down the line. Of course it would be nice to see him play more Test cricket and all he can do is make sure he’s ready to go if that’s the right call.”
Root hinted that spinners Jack Leach and Dom Bess could hold their places, despite the England squad having three more reserve spinners on tour.
“With the little cricket that both of them had played, I thought they grew as the game went on and got better and better,” Root said. “I expect that to be the same here as the practice days go on and the game goes on. The more they bowl and the more they find themselves in the pressure situations on the field then the better they will be for it and we will see them get better as the week unfolds.
“The fact they came out of the game with a lot of wickets between them is really pleasing and will give them a lot of confidence to hopefully speed that process up.”
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo
Colin Cowherd: It’s time for Colts to trade up in draft and find their franchise quarterback | UNDISPUTED
Colin Cowherd: It’s time for Colts to trade up in draft and find their franchise quarterback | UNDISPUTED | FOX Sports
Colin Cowherd discusses why it’s time for the Indianapolis Colts to go big in this year’s draft to find their franchise quarterback after Philip Rivers’ decision to retire. Hear why Colin believes the Colts should potentially trade up for the Miami Dolphins #3 overall pick after their announcement to stick with Tua Tagovailoa.