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Arab Club Champions Cup: CS Sfaxien and Al Ahli Tripoli advance, Al-Merrikh eliminated on away goals

Three teams secured passage to the final qualifying stage of the 2023 Arab Club Champions Cup on Tuesday, officially known this year as the King Salman Club Cup, including two African clubs. Tunisia’s CS Sfaxien found a crucial goal away from home in the second leg of their clash with Qatar Sports Club and advanced on away goals following a 1-1 second leg result. Sudanese club Al-Merrikh were eliminated by the away goal rule while Al Ahli Tripoli advanced against Egypt’s El Gaish following a second leg match that brought controversy at the end.

CS Sfaxien had a difficult task ahead of them after a scoreless draw in the first leg played in Tunisia but Hossam El Badry’s team accomplished an excellent result in Qatar. 18-year-old Guinean forward Mohamed Kanté scored a crucial goal towards the end of the first half when the former Hafia FC player received a cross from Achref Habessi and fired low past Qatar SC goalkeeper Satea Al Abbasi to give the visitors the lead. Former Paris Saint-Germain and Argentina national team midfielder Javier Pastore scored late for Qatar SC but it was not enough to overcome the away goal Kanté scored for CSS, who will face Sudanese champions Al-Hilal Omdurman in the next round.

Sudanese club Al-Merrikh were eliminated in the same manner as Qatar SC after a 1-0 defeat to Syrian club Tishreen. After a 2-1 defeat in the first leg played in Sudan, Tishreen won 1-0 in the second leg courtesy of a first half goal from Abdal Razak Al Mohamad. Tishreen overcame the disadvantage of not being able to host the second leg, a match played in the Saudi city of Jeddah, and advanced due to the goal scored in Sudan.

In an all-African duel, Al Ahli Tripoli completed a 3-2 aggregate victory over Egypt’s El Gaish following the 1-1 result in the second leg played at the Benina Martyrs Stadium in Benghazi, Libya. Young Nigerian forward Paul Julius intercepted an awful clearance attempt from Ahli goalkeeper Muhammad Nashnoush before finishing low past the former Libya national team captain in the first half. El Gaish needed another goal but Ahli put themselves beyond reach when Anis Saltou headed in a 64th minute goal.

The second leg ended controversially when El Gaish goalkeeper Mohamed Shaaban was hit by a flare from the Ahli supporters in second half stoppage time, resulting in an extended delay to the match and a trip to the hospital for the goalkeeper. Sudanese referee Mahmood Ali Ismail’s decision to finish the match continues to draw criticism with Ismail set to officiate the first leg of the upcoming CAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg between Egypt’s Al Ahly and Raja Casablanca. If there is no punishment given to Al Ahli Tripoli the Libyan club will face Oman’s Al-Nahda in the final qualifying stage.

Highlights from all three matches are below including video of the incident late in the second leg between Al Ahli Tripoli and El Gaish.

Scores

Qatar SC 1-1 CS Sfaxien (TUN)

Tied 1-1 on aggregate; CS Sfaxien advance on away goal rule

Tishreen (SYR) 1-0 Al-Merrikh (SDN)

Tied 2-2 on aggregate; Tishreen advance on away goals

Al Ahli Tripoli (LBY) 1-1 El Gaish (EGY)

Al Ahli Tripoli win 3-2 on aggregate

Highlights

Qatar SC 1-1 CS Sfaxien

Al Ahli Tripoli 1-1 El Gaish (Highlights)

El Gaish goalkeeper Mohamed Shaaban is hit by a flare late in the match

Tishreen 1-0 Al-Merrikh

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