CAIRO: Al-Ahly took a small step towards an 11th continental title with a 2-1 win over Wydad AC in the first leg of the African Champions League final on Sunday, but wondered what might have happened. The Egyptians were looking good with a deserved two-goal lead before Morocco struck a late goal, which means next week’s second leg is set up very well.
In a rematch of the 2022 final that went Wydad’s way, a first-half header from Percy Tau and a Kaharaba strike on the hour kept the Red Giants in control before Saifeddin Bohra scored to set things up for next Sunday Returned when there would be a large crowd and hostile atmosphere in Casablanca.
In what was an unforgettable affair with 50,000 fans at the Cairo Stadium, Al-Ahly made the most of the opening round. Perhaps attack was always the best form of defense as despite pre-match news that Mohamed El-Shenawi had recovered from a calf injury and was set to start, third-choice goalkeeper Mustafa Shobir was in fact second-choice. had come Storer also stood outside injured stand-in.
Al-Ahli were in dominance and just before the half-hour, the game looked to be turning the ten-time continental champions’ way as the referee pointed to the spot, judging Hussein Al Shahat’s free-kick to be deflected by Zouhir El had controlled. Mutaraji but VAR clearly demonstrated that the ball had hit the back of the turning player’s head.
After 38 minutes, there were more calls for a penalty as Al-Ahli claimed an impressive Al Shahat was brought down in the area by Jalal Dawoodi, but the appeals were turned down.
Up to that point, the Moroccans had barely appeared as an attacking force, but their semi-final elimination at Mamelodi Sundowns showed they couldn’t be counted out and before the break, Woydad finally started asking a question or two. .
The home fans were on their feet shortly after for the third-choice goalkeeper. Reda Jadi picked up the ball in space on the right side of the area but Shobir came out quick, made himself tall and blocked the shot. It was not the first or the last save that the 23-year-old pulled off.
After half time, Al-Ahli got the goal they deserved. El Shahat placed the ball on the byline and his cross from the left found Tau unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box and the South African made no mistake and his smart header took the ball home.
Wyatt came out with a bit more alacrity after the break as the game began to open up but found themselves two goals down on the hour. Youssef El Moti, the number two goalkeeper for Morocco, came too far off his line on the right side of the area in an attempt to clear a long ball from the defence, but Shahat got there first. He passed the ball towards Kahraba, who had time to take his position – high in the Moroccan net – to keep the Egyptians firmly in control.
However, after 68 minutes, Shobir was beaten by Yahya Attiyat Allah’s first-time shot from the left side of the area, but the home fans were relieved to see the ball bounce off the inside of the post.
Ten minutes later, Shobier again saved, this time for Mohamed Onagem as the Moroccan pushed for the away goal that would have changed the entire complexion of the tie. And that’s what happened with four minutes left. Ayoub El Amloud reached the byline on the right to pull the ball back for Bohra on the penalty spot and he steered the ball home. A jubilant celebration from the visiting team was showcased with the goal.
In the end, Al-Ahli left the field as if they were defeated but this is the second leg to play in and it should be a cracker.