Al-Ahly told to be ready for heated battle in Tunisia against Esperance de Tunis in Champions League final

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It was a tense and heated affair in Alexandria last week. Another red-ht atmosphere is expected on Friday. (AFP)
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Updated 08 November 2018
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Al-Ahly told to be ready for heated battle in Tunisia against Esperance de Tunis in Champions League final

  • Al-Ahly take 3-1 lead into clash as coach Carteron tells team to be prepared for "war".
  • Esperance boss Chaabani wants players to overcome "extreme injustice" of first leg.

LONDON: Al-Ahly may be taking a 3-1 lead into the second leg of the CAF Champions League final against Esperance de Tunis on Friday, but their coach Patrice Carteron has told his team to be prepared for “war” in their bid to win a ninth continental crown.
The first leg in Alexandria last weekend was an extremely feisty and bad-tempered affair that will be remembered for two controversial VAR (video assistant referee) penalties for Al-Ahly — Walid Soliman converted both.
Furious Esperance players and coaches accused the Egyptian side’s striker Walid Azaro of diving to win the first spot-kick and of feigning injury and tearing his shirt for the second.
The Tunisians accused the Algerian referee of bias and the Cairo club of pre-match dirty tricks, including delaying their arrival at the stadium and police harassment.
No CAF Champions League final is a quiet affair, but after the first leg today’s clash is expected to be on the red-hot end of heated. And Carteron has warned his side they cannot take anything for granted despite their two-goal advantage.
“We are fortunate to have many players sufficiently experienced to deal with this kind of match,” the Al-Ahly coach said.
“I hope the team receives special protection and that the Tunisian government ensures we have a football match, and not a war in the stands.”

Walid Azaro is supsended for Friday's do-or-die clash. 


Carteron is only too well aware that Al-Ahly will need to be at their most-levelled best to ensure they lift the trophy tonight. They go into the clash without Azaro, right, who has been banned for two matches following the incident last week. CAF did not elaborate on why the ban had been imposed but it is thought it was because the Moroccan was ultimately shown to have ripped his shirt in the first leg.
While Al-Ahly will rue the loss of the man who has scored six goals in the competition so far, second only to TP Mazembe’s Ben Malango, the sense of grievance — they have appealed the ban — could well drive them to put in the necessary backs-against-the-wall performance in Tunis.
That aim of righting some wrongs will definitely be a motivating factor for Esperance. Their coach Moine Chaabani is still smarting from what he sees as the injustices of the first leg. But Chaabani, promoted when Khaled Ben Yahia was fired after a first-leg loss to Primeiro in the semifinals, is confident his side can win the Champions League for the third time.
“We can recover from 3-1 behind — there is still hope. A key issue is keeping my players focused on football with so much else going on,” he said.
Chaabani is angry at the losses of center-back Dhaouadi and Cameroonian midfield enforcer Kom, whose second yellow cards of the competition triggered automatic one-match suspensions.
“Dhaouadi was booked for no reason, so was Kom. It is as if they were targeted (by the referee) from the get go.
“I am livid at what happened in Alexandria, but have to keep it together for the sake of the team. We were subjected to an extreme injustice.”


‘On edge’ Federer makes winning Paris return

Updated 27 May 2019
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‘On edge’ Federer makes winning Paris return

  • Angelique Kerber’s hopes of completing career Grand slam end after early exit
  • Kerber, 31, has now lost six times in the French Open first round

PARIS: Roger Federer marked his return to Roland Garros after a four-year absence with a straight sets win over Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego on Sunday, admitting he “felt on edge,” as Angelique Kerber’s hopes of completing a career Grand Slam suffered a quick kill.

Federer, a 20-time major winner, had not played the tournament since 2015 when he reached the quarterfinals.

However, on Sunday, it was as if the 37-year-old had never been away as he swept to a 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 victory in one hour 41 minutes on a packed, rebuilt Court Philippe Chatrier.

It was his 60th successive first round win at a Grand Slam.

“I felt on edge at the start, my heart was beating crazily,” said Federer, who hailed the new-look stadium which has been 90 percent rebuilt in readiness for the installation of a retractable roof for 2020.

“I felt great playing on this court. It looks very attractive, so congratulations to everyone involved.

“Hopefully I can play here again for my next match.”

That match will be against German lucky loser Oscar Otte who won just his second match in eight years on the tour by seeing off Malek Jaziri of Tunisia 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-0.

“I would be surprised if Roger knew my name,” said Otte, the world No. 145.

Federer broke serve five times and fired 36 winners past 24-year-old Sonego, the world No. 73 who made the quarterfinals at the Monte Carlo Masters.

German fifth seed and reigning Wimbledon champion Kerber saw her hopes of a career Grand Slam ended by Russian teenager Anastasia Potapova.

Kerber slumped to a 6-4, 6-2 defeat to 18-year-old Potapova who was making her French Open debut.

“Kerber is actually one of my idols, and when I was young I was looking for her game,” said the 81st-ranked Russian who hit 28 winners past her German opponent.

Kerber, 31, has now lost six times in the French Open first round.

The German left-hander had come into Roland Garros carrying a right ankle injury which forced her to pull out of the Italian Open and retire from her second round tie in Madrid.

“I didn’t have many expectations coming in,” said Kerber, who was broken six times in the match which brought the curtain up on the newlook Chatrier arena.

Potapova’s first win over a top 10 player gives her a second round clash against 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic.

Greek sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who stunned Federer on his way to the Australian Open semifinals and beat 11-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal in Madrid, also made the second round.

The 20-year-old sixth seed brushed aside Germany’s Maximilian Marterer 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4).

The new Court Simonne Mathieu, a 5,000-capacity semi-sunken arena enclosed by greenhouses, was officially unveiled on Sunday.

It forms part of the €350 million upgrade of the entire site which will also see the demolition of the Court 1 ‘bullring’ after the 2018 tournament.

Spain’s Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 champion, had the honor of opening proceedings against America’s Taylor Townsend and the 19th seed marked the occasion with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 win.

“It’s cute,” said the Spaniard. “It’s not small, but it’s, you know, cozy.”

Other winners on the first day included Japanese seventh seed Kei Nishikori, a quarterfinalist in 2015, who eased past France’s Quentin Halys 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.

However, Italian 16th seed Marco Cecchinato, the man who sent Novak Djokovic crashing out in the quarterfinals in 2018, fell at the first hurdle.

Cecchinato lost to 37-year-old Frenchman Nicolas Mahut —  who has slipped to 253 in the world — 2-6, 6-7 (6/8), 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

Canada teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime withdrew from the tournament with a thigh injury, just a day after finishing runner-up to Benoit Paire in Lyon.

The 18-year-old was seeded 25 and had been due to face Australia’s Jordan Thompson in the first round on his maiden appearance in the main draw in Paris.

Auger-Aliassime’s spot in the first round draw has been taken by Spanish lucky loser Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Second seed Karolina Pliskova closed play on Chatrier with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Madison Brengle of the US.