Sharpshooter Clottey Has Ahly in His Sights
Berekum Chelsea takes the sharpest scoring boots in the 2012 CAF Champions League to Al Ahly of Egypt Saturday as Berekum Chelsea from Ghana seek to extend a fairy tale debut season.
The 24-year-old striker, a virtual unknown outside his homeland when the annual competition kicked off last February, has bagged 11 goals in six qualifiers and two group games ahead of the match day three Cairo showdown.
He is only the third goal poacher after Nigerian Stephen Worgu and Malian Mamadou Diallo to reach double figures in the last 10 years and the first Ghanaian since leading 2000 scorer Emmanuel Osei Kuffour.
Kuffour helped Hearts of Oak lift the Champions League over more fancied Esperance of Tunisia, but Ghana have had little to celebrate since with a string of early exits from the premier Pan-African club competition.
Chelsea are hoping to change that and have made a promising start to Group B with a win and a draw despite being the outsiders beside three clubs boasting 15 titles between them.
Group leaders Ahly have won the Champions League a record six times, fellow Cairo club Zamalek five times and TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo four times.
But Chelsea have not been intimidated by such powerful opposition and came from behind twice to edge Zamalek 3-2 in an Accra thriller before wiping out a two-goal deficit to hold Mazembe 2-2 in Lubumbashi.
Clottey scored all five goals in those matches, including a stoppage-time winner against Zamalek, after bagging six in as many qualifiers that led to a last-eight slot and at least $400,000 prize money.
The six included a hat-trick against three-time African champions Raja Casablanca of Morocco, a brace against Liberians LISCR and a vital away goal against 2008 Champions League runners-up Cotonsport Garoua of Cameroon.
Hans van der Pluijm, the Dutch coach who guided Berekum into the group phase at the first attempt, praises the 1.78-metre Accra-born striker who appears capable of surpassing the 13-goal haul of Worgu four seasons ago.
"Emmanuel does not need many chances because when he gets one he takes it. He is always relaxed in front of goal and that is important for us," the coach told reporters.
Ahly edged Mazembe and Zamalek to garner six points and will miss defender Ahmed Fathy, midfielder Mohamed Aboutrika and striker Emad Moteab, who are on Olympic Games duty, for a game behind closed doors at a military stadium.
Domestic matches have been halted and spectators barred from international fixtures since 74 fans died in Port Said rioting after local club Al Masry achieved a rare national championship triumph over Ahly.
Mazembe, runners-up to Inter Milan in the 2010 FIFA Club World Cup, have secured just one point and Zamalek none, making the Lubumbashi showdown a must-win match for both teams if they hope to win the group.
Title holders Esperance entertain 2007 champions Etoile Sahel Sunday in a Tunisian showdown between the Group A pacesetters and the outcome is sure to have a significant impact on the final placings.
Khaled Mouelhi and Cameroonian Yannick Ndjeng scored two goals each as Esperance overcame Sunshine Stars in Nigeria and Algerian visitors ASO Chlef while Etoile have won and drawn despite netting just once.
An Aimen Belaid goal brought victory at Chlef before a disappointing goalless draw in Mediterranean resort Sousse with Sunshine, who have a chance to claim a first win when they host the Algerians.