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  • A touching tribute, record-extending champions, trophy returns to Egypt
  • Top-scorer exits at the quarter-finals, two wonderful goals in the decider
  • A champion with four coaches, Mosimane emulates El Gohary’s feat

The 2019/2020 CAF Champions League was unique. After the Covid-19 pandemic halted football not only in Africa but the world over, the competition was suspended from March to October.

The tournament then resumed in exceptional circumstances during which matches were played behind closed doors, and ultimately it was Al Ahly of Egypt who emerged victorious to claim the ninth title in their history. FIFA.com takes a look back at the 2019/2020 CAF Champions League.

Road to Qatar 2020

Al Ahly kicked off their 2019/20 CAF Champions League campaign in the preliminary round by thrashing South Sudan’s Atlabara 13-0 on aggregate. The Red Devils then moved into the group stage after overcoming Kano Sport of Equatorial Guinea 6-0 on aggregate in the first round. They subsequently secured a place in the quarter-finals by finishing second in their group behind Etoile du Sahel in a section that also featured Platinum of Zimbabwe and Sudan’s Al Hilal.

In the last eight, Al Ahly took on 2016 champions Mamelodi Sundowns, prevailing 2-0 in Cairo before drawing 1-1 in Pretoria. The Cairo giants then faced Wydad Casablanca, registering a 2-0 win away from home before winning 3-1 in Cairo to cruise into the final against their arch-rivals Zamalek.






Highlights

Touching tribute
In a touching tribute, Al Ahly captain Mohamed El Shenawy handed the trophy to his team-mate Moamen Zakaria to lift it to the sky. Zakaria is suffering from a rare disease that has kept him away from the game for a year and half.

Title eludes teams from the Maghreb for first time since 2016
The CAF CL title finally eluded sides from the Maghreb region after teams from there had won it the three previous years. Wydad Casablanca beat Al Ahly in 2017 before ES Tunis triumphed in 2018 and 2019, before Al Ahly broke that run this year by claiming their first title since 2013.

Zamalek miss out
Having failed to claim their sixth title, Zamalek missed out on the chance to become the second most successful team in CAF Champions League history. As it stands, Zamalek share second place with TP Mazembe on five titles behind Al Ahly who extended their lead as the most crowned club in Africa.

Al Ahly and Zamalek hold quarter of the titles
Between them, the two Cairo-based clubs have lifted 14 of 56 CAF Champions League trophies which means they have bagged a quarter of the titles since the competition began.

Mosimane emulates El Gohary’s feat
Al Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane made history after he won the CAF Champions League with two different teams; in 2016 with Mamelodi Sundowns and in 2020 with Al Ahly. He thus emulates the feat of Mahmoud El Gohary who claimed the title with Al Ahly in 1982 and then with Zamalek in 1993.

Four coaches en route to glory
For the first time, Al Ahly won the title with four different coaches at different stages of the tournament. The Red Devils started the tournament with Martin Lasarte at the helm for the first leg against Atlabara before Mohamed Yousef took charge in the second leg. Rene Weiler was head coach against Mamelodi Sundowns in the quarter-finals before Mosimane was appointed right before the semi-finals.




Players of Egypt s Al Ahly celebrate during the trophy ceremony 


Super stars

The tournament saw several stars showcase their goal-scoring prowess. Although Etoile du Sahel’s campaign ended at the quarter-finals, their Algerian striker Karim Aribi emerged as the tournament’s top scorer with ten goals to his name. This was despite the fact that he played three fewer games than the strikers of Zamalek and Al Ahly (the semi-finals and the final). Aribi’s feat earned him a move to Nimes in France’s Ligue 1 at the end of the season.

Finals can be dull affairs. Tactics often override talent as the pressure to win weighs on the players. Fortunately, the 2019/20 CAF Champions League final was an exception to the rule. A fantastic goal from Shikabala leveled it for Zamalek before Afsha fired home a wonderful winner.

Al Ahly goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy played a big role in his team’s triumphant campaign. The shot-stopper, who accumulated experience playing with Egypt at Russia 2018, continued his fantastic form throughout the tournament and led Al Ahly to a treble in 2019/20.

Zamalek’s Achraf Bencharki had another wonderful season in his impressive career. The winger, who won the title with Wydad in 2017, finished the tournament as second top-scorer with seven goals. He has proved indispensable for Zamalek thanks to his wonderful dribbling skills and ability to penetrate opposing defences. The Moroccan appears determined to secure a spot in Vahid Halilhodzic’s squad for the Qatar 2022 qualifiers.

Top-scorers:

  1. Karim Aribi, 10 goals (Etoile du Sahel)
  2. Mostafa Mohamed, 8 goals (Zamalek)
  3. Jackson Muleka, 7 goals (TP Mazembe)
  4. Achraf Bencharki, 7 goals (Zamalek)

Best Player in the Final:

Mohamed Magdy Afsha




Players of Egypt s Al Ahly celebrate during the trophy ceremony 


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Virat Kohli, Ishant Sharma likely to return for England series

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News

New panel will meet on Tuesday to pick a squad for the first two Tests of the home series

Even before the ink on India’s glorious and eventful tour of Australia dries, the selection committee is set to pick a squad for the first two Tests of home series against England. Comprising four matches, this series will be played in February, in a bio-secure environment, without spectators, with back-to-back Tests scheduled in Chennai and Ahmedabad.

This selection meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, will be the first of a brand new panel led by Chetan Sharma (chairman) and made up of Sunil Joshi, Abey Kuruvilla, Debashish Mohanty and Harvinder Singh.

The England series will mark the return of Virat Kohli back in the fold after he left the Australia tour to attend the birth of his first child. With all the games being played in a bubble it is likely that an enlarged squad will be picked – at least 25 players including net bowlers. The success of several young players over the past several weeks will embolden Kohli and the selectors, but they will will need to figure some key questions.

Will it be a five-pronged fast bowling attack?

A strong series result for India is a must for them to keep their chances of making the World Test Championship final alive. Consequently, India are likely to favour spin-friendly pitches to assist R Ashwin and co. Still the selectors are likely to pick five frontline fast bowlers in the primary squad. It is understood that Jasprit Bumrah, who was forced to sit out of the Gabba Test, will be fit to play his first home Test series.

It is understood Ishant Sharma, who missed out on travelling to Australia since he was completing his rehab from an injury picked during the IPL, will bolster the pace attack. Ishant is currently three matches short of becoming only the second Indian fast bowler to play 100 Test matches after Kapil Dev. As on Monday, he had featured in four T20s for Delhi in which he picked up five wickets at an economy of 7.76.

Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur and T Natarajan are likely to be the remaining three fast bowlers.

As for Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who is also playing in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s for Uttar Pradesh, it is learned that the selectors want him to get used to bowling a lot of overs before opening him up to the rigours of Test cricket. Bhuvnewshar was injured during the early part of the IPL and has not played any fist-class cricket for a while. The pair of Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav are likely to be considered for the final two Tests, provided they recover completely from the injuries picked during the Australia tour.

Three spinners or more?

It is likely to be three spinners in the first squad with Ashwin leading the spin attack. In the absence of Ravindra Jadeja, who could return for the final two Tests, the selectors are likely to pick the left-arm pair of Kuldeep Yadav and Shahbaz Nadeem. Yadav last played for India in January 2019, in the final Test of the last Australian tour, taking a five-for. Despite Ashwin being unavailable for the Brisbane Test, the Indian team management picked a rookie in Washington Sundar over Yadav, who missed out on playing in any of the four Tests on this Australian tour. Sundar, who travelled to Australia originally as part of the white-ball squads, went on to make a fine Test debut but is only likely to be part of the net bowlers for the England series.

Three openers or four?

It is understood that the selectors are likely to include at least three openers, while also looking at options who can double up as a middle-order batsman. Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill will be persisted as the opening pair along with Mayank Agarwal as the back-up. The selectors could also include one of the uncapped Priyank Panchal or Abhimanyu Easwaran as fourth opener with the aim of getting them to spend time with the first team. Both Panchal and Easwaran have been leading run-makers in first-class cricket as well as for India A and the selectors want them to get a higher level of exposure.

Prithvi Shaw, who made a century on Test debut in 2018, is is likely to dropped from the squad to allow him the time to strengthen his technique. Shaw was dropped after an uneventful outing in the day-night Test in Adelaide where his technical frailties were highlighted by experts including Sunil Gavaskar and Ricky Ponting. KL Rahul, who sprained his wrist in Melbourne, will be assessed in February before the selectors consider whether to include him for the final two Tests against England.

Additional reporting by Shashank Kishore

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Pacers fall 129-96 to Clippers in finale of four-game road trip

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LOS ANGELES — Marcus Morris scored a season-high 20 points to lead seven players in double figures, and the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Indiana Pacers 129-96 on Sunday night for their first four-game winning streak of the season.

With sharpshooter Lou Williams sidelined, Morris came off the bench to hit four 3-pointers, tying his season-high. He was coming off an 18-point performance at Sacramento on Friday. The Clippers made 19 of 39 from long-range, outdueling the Pacers, who were 11 of 38.

“I was wide-open,” Morris said. “If I can’t make a wide-open shot, I’m in the wrong business.”

Fellow reserve Luke Kennard added season highs of 20 points and five 3-pointers. Paul George also had 20 points. Kawhi Leonard had 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Clippers.

“I feel like our energy is way better this season,” Morris said. “Guys are buying in and enjoying playing the game.”

Doug McDermott led the Pacers with 23 points, making five 3-pointers. Domantas Sabonis added 19 points and 14 rebounds.

Indiana closed within two points early in the third before the Clippers put the game away. They outscored the Pacers 37-14 the rest of the quarter to lead 100-75 going into the fourth. Los Angeles made eight 3-pointers by six different players and Leonard scored 11 points.

“They started making shots,” Sabonis said. “I feel like we left guys too open. We were throwing out a lot of different defenses and they caught on to the box-and-1 and it was harder for us to catch up.”

The Clippers ran off 10 straight points early in the fourth to lead 110-81. Kennard had a 3-point play and George scored seven in a row.

“Excited to see how far he can take it,” Morris said of George. “Been playing very well, unselfish, under control. He’s definitely playing MVP basketball.”

Indiana had won two straight, but was idle since Thursday at Portland. The team’s game at Phoenix on Saturday was postponed because of COVID-19 issues.

That didn’t stop McDermott from bursting out of the gate. He scored 13 of the Pacers’ first 21 points.

The Clippers hit five 3-pointers while outscoring the Pacers 35-12 over the end of the first quarter and start of the second to build an 18-point lead. Indiana closed strongly with a 20-10 run, including 10 by Sabonis, that left the Pacers trailing 61-55 at halftime.

TIP-INS

Pacers: Myles Turner was out with a sore right hand. … Goga Bitzdze returned from a sprained right ankle and scored five points. … Their four-game trip ended. … Both teams wore T-shirts honoring Martin Luther King Jr. during warmups.

Clippers: Their bench outscored the Pacers’ reserves, 65-14. … It was their fourth straight game with at least 15 3-pointers made, tying the longest such streak in franchise history. … Williams missed his second straight game with a left hip injury. … Serge Ibaka was out for non-COVID-19 reasons.

UP NEXT

Pacers: Host Dallas on Wednesday.

Clippers: Host Sacramento on Wednesday.



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FIFA Club World Cup 2020 – News – Palmeiras, Santos book the battle of Brazil

  • Palmeiras saw off River while Santos prevailed against Boca
  • The final will take place on 30 January at the Maracana
  • Winners will qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup

Palmeiras and Santos, the top two sides in the group stage, put paid to the hopes of River Plate and Boca Juniors in their respective semis to set up an all-Brazilian final in the Copa Libertadores 2020.

This will be the fourth time the tournament’s deciding game will be contested by two teams from the same country, and the third between Brazilian clubs. The nation last provided both finalists in 2006, when Internacional defeated Sao Paulo before going on to upset Barcelona in the Club World Cup final.

The final, which is a single game, will take place on Saturday, 30 January at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro. As well as continental bragging rights, the victor will get to represent South America at the upcoming FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020, set to be played between 1-11 February.

Palmeiras do it the hard way

  • First leg: River Plate 0-3 Palmeiras
  • Second leg: Palmeiras 0-2 River Plate

Despite being outplayed in the second leg in Brazil and losing their unbeaten record, Palmeiras’s resounding win in Argentina proved enough to see off Marcelo Gallardo’s impressive River side. In so doing, O Verdāo checked into their fifth Libertadores final, with their sole victory coming in 1999.

With impressive displays in both legs but especially in the second, goalkeeper Weverton was the standout figure for the Brazilian side, who again had vital contributions from Rony and Luiz Adriano (one goal apiece).

Palmeiras became the first Brazilian team to beat Marcelo Gallardo’s River Plate over two legs in a CONMEBOL tournament. With Gallardo at the helm, River had won all six of their knockout clashes against Brazilian opposition, four coming in the Copa Libertadores, one in the Copa Sudamericana and one in the Recopa.

Rony and Luiz Adriano have scored ten times between them in the Libertadores 2020 (five apiece). Their collective efforts account for 31.25 per cent of their side’s goal tally (10 out of 32).

The words

Gallardo is a better coach than me, and his players are more experienced. Our first-leg performance, in which we were the better side, is what got us through to the final. Here, they were superior. We have to be humble and recognise that. It was the best defeat of my career.

Abel Ferreira, Palmeiras coach

What I saw today from my team makes me proud and dignifies my profession. These are the moments you become a coach for. I wish Palmeiras luck in the final.

Marcelo Gallardo, River Plate coach

Santos stroll into showpiece

  • First leg: Boca Juniors 0-0 Santos
  • Second leg: Santos 3-0 Boca Juniors

With a solid team performance and the firepower to capitalise at key moments in the return leg, Santos proved too strong for Boca Juniors en route to their fifth Libertadores final. Winners in 1962 and 1963 with Pele in their ranks, and in 2011 with Neymar, O Peixe will be attempting to become the first Brazilian club to win the title four times.

Displaying dynamism, speed and youthful energy, Santos never let their opponents relax across the two legs, although it was only in the return fixture that they made their superiority count. Especially impressive in Sao Paulo were their Venezuelan attacking midfielder Yeferson Soteldo and Brazilian attacker Marinho.

Santos put three goals past Boca in 90 minutes, the same quantity the Argentinian side had conceded in their previous 11 games in this edition. It was the 20th time Santos have won a Libertadores match by three goals.

Santos’s 20 goals in this tournament have been shared between 11 players after Diego Pituca got on the score-sheet against Boca. Yeferson Soteldo and Lucas Braga, the other two marksmen in the second leg, now have two goals apiece. The team’s leading scorers in this edition are Kaio Jorge (5) and Marinho (4).

The words

It could have been Boca-River, but it’s going to be Santos and Palmeiras at the Maracana representing Brazil. Congratulations are in order, though not just for us: this is a victory for all of Brazilian football.

Cuca, Santos coach

I’m the one in charge, so I take full responsibility for everything. I have no excuses. Defeat in an open semi-final, knowing the opportunity we had, hurts.”

Miguel Russo, Boca Juniors coach



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