Moroccan under-fire striker Walid Azaro silenced his critics in style, scoring a hat-trick as Ahly hammered Tunisia’s Etoile du Sahel 6-2 to reach their first African Champions League final since 2013 on Sunday.
Roared on by their passionate crowd at Alexandria’s Borg El-Arab Stadium, Ahly, trailing 2-1 from the first-leg, opened the scoring as early as the second minute via a cunningly floated free-kick from Tunisian left-back Ali Maaloul.
Azaro, a summer arrival who has come in for fierce criticism from Ahly fans for being profligate in recent Egyptian league games, scored with two carbon-copy headers to give his side a 3-0 halftime lead.
He completed his hat-trick with a simple finish early in the second half but Etoile were briefly given a lifeline when Rami Bedoui pulled one back shortly after, leaving the visitors needing two more goals to qualify on the away goal rule.
However, Ahly ran roughshod over their opponents with a fortuitous own goal from Hamdi Nagguez and a blistering shot from central defender Rami Rabia to go 6-1 up before Iheb Msakni netted a stoppage-time consolation for Etoile.
Ahly advanced to the final with a 7-4 aggregate win to close on a record-extending ninth title. They meet Wydad Casablanca in the final after the Moroccans beat USM Alger 3-1 on Saturday.
Wydad and Ahly met twice in the group stage, each winning their home match. The final first-leg takes place next weekend in Alexandria, with Wydad hosting the return in Casablanca one week later.