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Al Ahly claim ninth title in exceptional year

  • 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.

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

Sourced from FIFA

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