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Esperance's head coach Miguel Cardoso on defeat to Al Ahly

Esperance’s head coach Miguel Cardoso on defeat to Al Ahly 

Esperance’s head coach, Miguel Cardoso, expressed pride in his players despite their 1-0 defeat to Al Ahly in the second leg of Saturday’s CAF Champions League final. He insisted that they gave their all in a losing cause.

An early own goal by Roger Aholo at the Cairo International Stadium was enough to hand the Egyptian giants a record-extending 12th CAF Champions League crown after the first leg in Tunisia had finished 0-0.

 For Cardoso and his Esperance side, it marked the end of their bid to be crowned African club champions for the first time since 2019.

However, the Portuguese coach was defiant when reflecting on their narrow aggregate loss to the continent’s most decorated side.

“I am certainly not happy about losing the title, but I am proud of what my team presented and of reaching the final,” Cardoso told reporters.

“We fought until the end and showed great character, even though conceding an early goal against a big team like Al Ahly is not easy.”

The Blood and Gold had given themselves a mountain to climb when going behind with just four minutes on the clock, as Aholo inadvertently turned the ball into his net under pressure.

But Cardoso felt there was no shame in coming up short against the competition’s most successful-ever club, particularly given Esperance’s exploits in reaching successive TotalEnergies CAF Champions League finals.

“We have a young team, and we succeeded in qualifying for the Club World Cup, and we must support this team during the coming period,” the 47-year-old added.

“I have only been with Esperance for four months, and we managed to build many things that were missing. During the last period, we gave our all, but luck was not on our side.”

Cardoso mentioned finding comfort in the progress made under his guidance as he aims to develop a team capable of achieving better results next season. 

In front of over 70,000 passionate home supporters on Saturday, the Tunisian team displayed resilience and organization that got them to the final, despite ultimately being defeated.

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