CAIRO: Al Ahly were slammed by their own coach Manuel Jose Sunday despite a win that virtually sealed an African Champions League semi-finals place.
Al Ahly outclassed struggling Esperance of Tunisia 3-0 in Cairo thanks to goals from midfielder Mohamed Aboutraika, Angola World Cup striker Flavio Amado and substitute Osama Hosny.
The result left five-time African champions Al Ahly eight points ahead of other former title holders Asec of Ivory Coast and Esperance halfway through the six-round mini-league phase.
Another win over troubled Esperance in Tunis on Aug. 4 and Al Ahly will be through to the last four as they chase a record third consecutive title in the premier African club football competition.
But Portuguese coach Jose, who has guided the Cairo Red Devils to three of their five Champions League successes, hit out at his superstars.
We were not good and we did not take the game seriously enough despite the victory margin, said the coach.
Esperance axed veteran captain Moyin Chaabani for undisclosed disciplinary reasons, lacked suspended defender Wissem Bekri, and Ali Ben Nadji was the third coach in as many Champions League outings.
Frenchman Jacky Dugueperoux was fired after a goalless home draw with Asec and local Faouzi Benzarti accepted an offer to coach Libya just one week after a 2-0 loss at Al-Hilal of Sudan.
Hilal could be the surprise second qualifiers from Group B after Nigerian Yusuf Mohamed scored the late winner in a 2-1 home triumph over Asec. Another Nigerian, Ezeh Ndubuisi, put the Sudanese ahead and Nafiu Iddrisu levelled.
Al Ahly have nine points from three matches, Hilal six and ASEC and Esperance just one each in a competition offering a $1 million dollar first prize and a place in the annual Fifa Club World Cup.
Etoile Sahel of Tunisia, Champions League runners-up twice in the past three years, took a firm grip on Group A thanks to a 3-0 win over Algerian visitors Jeunesse Sportive Kabylie in the Mediterranean resort of Sousse.
Etoile were ahead within 55 seconds through young striker Amine Chermiti and early second half goals from midfielder Mejdi Ben Mohamed and Cape Verdian striker Gilson Ja Silva sealed success.
Victory lifted Etoile to seven points while surprise packets Al-Ittihad of Libya have collected four and more fancied Kabylie and FAR Rabat of Morocco three each. FAR pipped Ittihad 1-0 in a bad-tempered Rabat clash through a stoppage-time header from leading scorer Jaouad Ouaddouch, who deflected a shot past outstanding Libyan goalkeeper Samir Aboud.
Ittihad players and Serb coach Branko Smiljamnic reacted by attacking Moroccan players and journalists and police had to protect the Nigerian match officials during a 10-minute delay.