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Late Wydad goal dents Ahly hopes of CAF Champions League glory

Late Wydad goal dents Ahly hopes of CAF Champions League glory

June 4, 2023 (AFP)

Al Ahly hopes of a record-extending 11th CAF Champions League title hang in the balance after conceding a late goal in a 2-1 final, first-leg win over Wydad Casablanca on Sunday.

The Egyptians will face the Moroccans again, in Casablanca next Sunday, desperate to avoid a third final loss to their rivals in seven seasons. 

Ahly built a two-goal lead after 59 minutes through goals from South African Percy Tau and Mahmoud Kahraba before a capacity 50,000 crowd at the Cairo International Stadium.

But the final took a dramatic turn when defending champions Wydad snatched a precious away goal four minutes from the end of regular time through substitute Saifeddine Bouhra.

Ahly were no longer in control, and if Wydad can score once and not concede in the return match, they will retain the title and be crowned African champions a fourth time.  

The home side pushed forward from the kick-off and Tau and Kahraba came close to scoring before the Libyan referee awarded Ahly a penalty for hand ball on 30 minutes. 

Pleas from Wydad followed and the match official changed his decision after viewing the pitch-side VAR monitor and realising the ball hit the head of Bouly Sambou and not his hand.

Such was the dominance of the Egyptian outfit that their third-choice goalkeeper, Mostafa Shobeir, did not touch the ball until gathering a harmless free-kick on 35 minutes.

Shobeir, a son of legendary Ahly goalkeeper Ahmed Shobeir, made his Champions League debut after injuries ruled out first choice Mohamed el Shenawy and reserve Ali Lotfy.

Brave block

The stand-in goalkeeper bravely blocked a shot from Ayman el Hassouni with his body soon after and then Tau put Ahly ahead four minutes into first half added time.

Hussein el Shahat held off the challenges of two defenders on the goal line before crossing and unmarked Tau nodded past goalkeeper Youssef el Motie at the far post.

It was the fifth goal of the Champions League campaign for the South African, who starred in the semi-final triumph over four-time title-holders Esperance of Tunisia.

Mohamed Hany, deputising as captain for El Shenawy, and El Shahat combined to set up Kahraba for the second goal after 59 minutes.

A brilliant long, cross-field pass from Hany found El Shahat, who pushed the ball across the goalmouth for Kahraba to fire into the net from close range. 

Sensing the title was slipping from their grasp, Wydad responded positively and Yahia Attiyat Allah struck the woodwork with a low shot midway through the second half.

El Motie saved superbly from Kahraba after great work by Tau as the Cairo Red Devils sought the three-goal advantage that would have virtually guaranteed them overall victory. 

Zouhair el Moutaraji, whose wonder goal led to Wydad beating Ahly in the 2022 final, made little impact this time and was replaced by Bouhra on 82 minutes. 

It proved a masterstroke by recently hired Belgian coach Sven Vandenbroeck as the substitute slammed a loose ball into the net after Ahly failed to clear a cross.

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