Al Ahly president demands better after Sundowns humiliation
Al Ahly’s humiliating 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Mamelodi Sundowns in their Caf Champions League quarterfinal‚ first leg on Saturday sent shockwaves through the club and triggered much soul-searching ahead of the return in Alexandria.
Ahly president Mahmoud El-Khatib has demanded answers on what went wrong‚ and that the team rise up in the second leg at Borg El-Arab Stadium in Alexandria on Saturday.
The respected Egyptian football website Kingfut.com reported: “El-Khatib demanded to know from Lasarte the reasons behind the big defeat and the players’ poor performance on Saturday‚ adding that he will not accept any justifications or excuses.
“He also told the team that their only option is to rise up again and maintain Al Ahly’s ambitions to make it up for the fans‚ who felt the pain and grief following Saturday’s loss.”
In the wake of the drubbing Ahly have switched the return leg from the 20‚000-seater Suez Stadium‚ 370-kilometres along the coast to Alexandria and the 80‚000-capacity Borg El-Arab.
They have been lobbying Egyptian authorities – who limit crowds at football matches in the wake of the Arab Spring revolution‚ where Al Ahly’s “ultras” were influential in the uprising – to allow a capacity crowd.
Reports are that 30‚000 will be allowed‚ but Downs will know from past experience to expect many more on Saturday.
Sundowns know the Borg El-Arab well. They met Ahly’s bitter Cairo rivals Zamalek there in the 2016 Champions League final‚ losing the second leg 1-0 in Alexandria for a 3-1 aggregate victory.
On that occasion 40‚000 fans were supposed to be let in‚ but the actual number appeared closer to at least 60‚000.
Coach Martin Lasarte has already issued a number of apologies to the club and the fans for the thrashing in Atteridgeville‚ Al Ahly’s worst defeat in 77 years‚ since 1942.
He admitted a meeting with Ahly president El-Khatib. Uruguayan Lasarte played this down‚ saying the meeting was more one of support and finding solutions to what has been viewed as a crisis at the Cairo club following their heaviest ever defeat in African club competition.
“I consider myself responsible for the result and the big defeat‚ and I seek from today to correct the situation as soon as possible‚ because that’s what Al Ahly deserves‚” Lasarte said.
“I promise that every player in the team will give his best and I will do everything I can to compensate for the harsh result of the previous match.
Lasarte expressed his gratitude to El-Khatib‚ likely to have been a move to deflect any criticism that may come the way of the president‚ but also to secure his own future‚ which is now tenuous.
“He has been supporting me since my very first day here. This support doesn’t only involve respecting my tactical decisions but also by supporting the core structure of the team‚” the coach said.
“As well as training camps and other things that lead to rapid development of the team. Me and the players owe him a thanks.”
Finally‚ Lasarte had a message for the fans and promised improved performances going forward.
“I will speak with the utmost sincerity with the Al Ahly supporters. I ask them to trust us‚ because we will not let them down in anymore. And we will do whatever we can to correct our image.”