12.05.2023 23:32 h

Two-goal Tau takes Ahly to verge of CAF Champions League final

South African Percy Tau scored twice as Al Ahly of Egypt all but sealed a CAF Champions League final place after winning 3-0 away to Esperance of Tunisia on Friday.

Tau, who turns 29 on Saturday, struck after eight and 55 minutes of the semi-final first leg in an empty national stadium on the outskirts of Tunis following crowd trouble there two weeks ago.

Mahmoud Kahraba completed an unexpectedly easy victory for the record 10-time African champions with a third goal on 75 minutes.

Cairo hosts the return match on May 19 and it is almost certain that Ahly will advance to a two-leg title decider against Wydad Casablanca of Morocco or Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa.

Defending champions Wydad, who beat Ahly in the 2022 final of the premier CAF club competition, have home advantage over Sundowns on Saturday in the other first leg.

Operating on the right side of midfield, Tau has been consistently impressive for Ahly and his brace in Tunisia doubled a Champions League goal tally this season to four.

Unmarked just inside the penalty area, he opened the scoring with a shot that went into the net off the leg of goalkeeper Mohamed Debchi, who was deputising for the injured Moez Ben Cherifia.

If there was an element of good fortune about his first goal, Tau increased the lead with a brilliant solo effort to effectively put the outcome beyond doubt.

He ran across the pitch just outside the box, pursued by Mohamed Tougai, before unleashing a shot into the corner of the net with Debchi stranded.

Tau left Pretoria outfit Sundowns in 2018 for Premier League club Brighton, who loaned the winger to three Belgian clubs, before selling him to Ahly two years ago.

Hussein el Shahat set up the final goal with a low cross to the far post where the unguarded Kahraba raised his Champions League goal haul to five in this campaign with a tap-in.

The national stadium in Tunisia is a happy hunting ground for Ahly, who have won twice and drawn once in four Champions League semi-finals visits.

As anticipated, Mohamed Ali Ben Hammouda psoed the biggest threat for Esperance and, soon after Tau gave Ahly the lead, the Tunisian was just off target with a low deflected shot.

From the resultant corner, Yassine Meriah headed over when he should at least have forced a save from veteran goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy.

That was the closest Esperance came to scoring and, by the final whistle, they were a demoralised team who sensed their dreams of Champions League glory this season are over.