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Akpeyi touching distance to CAF Champions League title

Damiel Alpeyi

 

Super Eagles goalie Daniel Akpeyi is on the verge of adding CAF Champions League title to his laurels.

The Nigeria international who joined South Africa heavy weights Kaizer Chiefs in 2019 has continued to savour impressive run with the club as they made it to the CAF Champions league final where they will face nine-time Champions Al Ahly in Moroccan economic capital of Casablanca on Saturday.

Chiefs who are first time finalists are considered outsiders even as some analysts have opined that perennial winners Al Ahly will be underrating hard fighting Chiefs at their own peril.

Many among the millions who support Egyptian and African giants Ahly believe the outcome is not in doubt at Stade Mohammed V, their only questions is the victory margin for the Mohamed el Shenawy-captained Cairo Red Devils.

Yet Chiefs were rank outsiders when the competition kicked off last November and the South African club have already defied massive odds to reach the final.

Although they are two of the biggest names in African football, the teams have met just once, with Ahly winning 4-1 in the one-off 2002 CAF Super Cup match in Cairo.

Ahly reached the 2021 final by winning eight matches, drawing three and losing just one, away to shock Group A winners Simba in Tanzania at the mini-league stage.

Winners of a record 21 CAF titles in four competitions, the Cairo club have scored 23 goals, including five from leading scorer Mohamed Sherif, and conceded just six en route to Casablanca.

Interestingly they are guided by South African Pitso Mosimane, a childhood Chiefs’ fan who will tie five-title Tunisian Faouzi Benzarti as the most successful African coaches in CAF club competitions if Ahly triumph.

Pitso Mosimane ready to down Chiefs for Al Ahly

He chooses his team from a mix of Egyptian, Tunisian, Malian and Nigerian stars and, since replacing Swiss Rene Weiler last September, has won 36 of 50 matches in all competitions, drawn 10 and lost four.

His stars include El Shenawy, widely regarded as the best goalkeeper in Africa, full-back Ali Maaloul, midfielders Aliou Dieng and Mohamed ‘Afsha’ Magdy and forward Sherif.

Although Mosimane has ample TV footage of Chiefs, he still labels the Soweto side “mysterious” and “difficult to analyse”.

The Amakhosi (Chiefs) on their part have averaged less than a goal a game in Africa, notching 12 in 14 qualifying, group, quarter-final and semi-final matches.

They conceded four to Wydad Casablanca, three to Simba and two to Horoya in Guinea, but also boast 11 clean sheets.

“I have a little bit of a conflict facing Chiefs,” admits Mosimane. “I am a South African plotting the downfall of my countrymen.

read alsoEagles goalie shines as Kaizer Chiefs reach CAF Champions League final

“However, it is about me, my family and my team. They come first. Either I want to give my winners medal to Chiefs or keep it for myself or I think you (media) know the answer to that one.

“Ahly are not a welfare or charitable organisation handing out stars (Champions League winners medals). We want to win what they call ‘El Ashra’ (10th title) in Egypt.”

Chiefs will rely on a tight defence marshalled by giant centre-back Eric Mathoho, and they can choose from a trio of excellent goalkeepers in Nigerian Daniel Akpeyi, Itumeleng Khune and Bruce Bvuma.

 

 

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