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‘A milestone’: Mosimane completes remarkable four months at Ahly with third place in Qatar

12 February 2021 - 12:32 By Marc Strydom
Al Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane.
Al Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane.
Image: REUTERS/Ibraheem Al Omari

A video posted on Al Ahly’s Twitter feed of Pitso Mosimane embracing tearful forward Taher Mohamed after the Cairo giants’ victory against Palmeiras to take third place at the Club World Cup indicates the relationship the coach is establishing with his players.

Thursday night‚ when Ahly edged Brazil’s South American champions Palmeiras in a 0-0 normal time stalemate‚ and had to rely on penalties (3-2) for victory in the third-place playoff in Al Rayyan‚ Qatar‚ was not the first time such scenes were viewed between Ahly’s players and their coach.

CAF Champions League kings Al Ahly SC recorded a penalty shoot-out win over Copa Libertadores winners SE Palmeiras in the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020 match for third place. Mohamed El Shenaway saved two penalties in the shootout as the Egyptian side marked their best finish at the Club World Cup since 2006.

When Marwan Mohsen scored the opening goal in the Red Devils’ 2-1 Caf Champions League victory against bitter Cairo rivals Zamalek at Cairo International Stadium the big striker ran straight to Mosimane for a similar embrace.

Equalling Ahly’s best Club World Cup finish of third place‚ which they also achieved in Japan in 2006‚ solidifies Mosimane’s position at Ahly.

It completes a remarkable four-and-a-half months at Africa’s most successful football club‚ where the pressure to succeed is relentless‚ and that included wrapping up a treble arriving from Mamelodi Sundowns at the end of the Covid-19-delayed Egyptian 2019-20 season.

“I’m proud of the boys. Three hard games. They left everything on the pitch‚ they stepped on every leaf of the grass. And they should be tired by now‚” Mosimane said.

“They have the character‚ the self-belief‚ and you can’t ask for more from the boys.

“Yes‚ we know that we are not Bayern. And yes, we know that we have a lot of work to do. Yes‚ we know that we should score more.

“But you’ve got to understand the level of the competition. It’s the World Cup. I think Africa should not be disgraced by us becoming third.

“We got a medal‚ we defeated the Conmebol [South America] champions‚ and it’s a milestone.”

Ahly‚ who beat Qatar's Al-Duhail 1-0 in the second round, then lost 2-0 to Hansi Flick's Bayern Munich in the semifinals‚ edged the 90 minutes of normal time against Palmeiras before the playoff went straight to penalties.

“We opened it a bit in this match‚ because we analysed our opponents and we felt that we could go toe-to-toe and pound-for-pound with them‚” Mosimane said.

“But not recklessly. Also being careful of not opening a lot and then you concede a goal and you’re coming from behind. You don’t want to come from behind.

“People will say‚ ‘But against Bayern you were not that offensive’. Of course when you’re playing against Bayern‚ who beat Barcelona 8-2 [you won’t be as offensive].”

The Ahly Mosimane took over from Swiss Rene Weiler are a work in progress. They had not won the Caf Champions League since 2013 before their 2019-20 title.

Pitso Mosimane is delighted after Al Ahly defeated Palmeiras in the FIFA Club World Cup. #PitsoMosimane #AlAhly #AlAhlySC #AlAhlySportingClub #PalmeirasDeBrasil #SEPalmeiras #SociedadeEsportivaPalmeiras #Palmeiras #FIFAClubWorldCup #ClubWorldCup #ClubWC #YallaYaAhly #AHLxPAL #سر_التاسعة #يلا_يا_أهلي

Under Weiler, Ahly had only squeezed through the group stage a point (11) ahead of Sudanese outfit Al-Hilal‚ and beat Mosimane’s Sundowns 3-1 in the quarterfinals.

After his move to Cairo‚ Mosimane was not afraid to change the approach of the team in the continental showpiece‚ even though Weiler had won the Egyptian Premier League, losing just once. The result was a 5-1 aggregate semifinal win against Wydad Casablanca‚ arguably the strongest combination in Africa in the past half-decade‚ and beating Zamalek in the final.

The current Ahly have some quality players‚ but have also a long way to go before they can stand with the golden generation that included Mohamed Aboutrika‚ Wael Gomaa and Ahmed Hassan‚ who won the Champions League four times between 2005 and 2013.

But Mosimane will be aware of that‚ and his goal now – given time‚ and backed by the immense infrastructure of 113-year-old Ahly – will be to build back towards such standards.