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More misery for Egypt's Ahly as they bow out of Champions League

Hatem Maher , Saturday 2 May 2015
Ahly v Tetouan
Egypt's Ahly goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy and Walid Soliman fight for the ball with Mourtada Fall of Morocco's Moghreb Tetouan during their CAF Champions League soccer match at Petro Sport stadium in Cairo, May 2, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)
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Views: 1933

An ailing Ahly side, the record holders of the Champions League with eight titles, suffered more misery on Saturday when they bowed out of the competition's round of 16 for the second successive season after a shootout defeat against Moghreb Tetouan.

Ahly, trailing from the first leg, leveled the aggregate score after playmaker Abdallah El-Saied scored three minutes before the break but they failed to build up on their opening goal as Tetouan held firm to take the match to penalties, where they had the upper hand at Cairo's Petrosport stadium.

Tetouan prevailed with a 4-2 shootout win, having neatly converted their spot-kicks while Ahly wasted twice.

Mahmoud Trezeguet blasted Ahly's third effort high over the bar, holding his heads in his hands in agony to sum up the feeling of pressure on the stuttering club who are also unlikely to retain the Egyptian Premier League title, having fallen 11 points behind leaders and arch-rivals Zamalek.

Skipper Hossam Ghaly, who is way past his prime, had his shot blocked by Tetouan keeper Mohamed El Yousfi as the visiting team, an unfancied side who on paper were clear underdogs, erupted in joy in a match devoid of fans due to security concerns in Egypt.  

Ahly also waved goodbye to the Champions League last year at the same last-16 stage after losing to Libya's Ahli Benghazi before going on to become the first Egyptian side to win the Confederation Cup, Africa's secondary club competition.

Coach Juan Carlos Garrido is also certain to leave although Ahly will feature in the Confederation Cup again, where they can meet nemesis Zamalek who face another Moroccan side in FUS Rabat in the competition's round of 16 on Sunday.

Thousands of Ahly's hardcore fans attended the team's training session on Thursday, unfurling a banner that read "either Africa or you leave".

Social media users also vented their anger at the Spanish boss, who found it difficult to make up for the retirement of some key players, including iconic playmaker Mohamed Abou-Treika and rock-solid defender Wael Gomaa, who is now part of Garido's backroom staff.

Tight defence

Natural winger Walid Soliman was deployed in an unfamiliar position as a left-back due to the injury of the diminutive Hussein El-Sayed but Ahly were hardly affected, with Tetouan defending in numbers to preserve their first-leg advantage.

Ahly looked lively in the final third, keeping Tetouan defenders on their feet with a series of passes on the edge of the area while trying to exploit any gaps in a tight backline marshaled by the burly Mourtada Fall.

Attacking midfielder Moemen Zakareya ghosted behind the defence to latch onto a neat long ball from El-Saied but he blasted his shot wide from a tight angle on 26 minutes.

On 41 minutes, central midfielder Mohamed Rezk created space for himself after evading some tame challenges and fired a shot that hit the side netting from the edge of the area before El-Saied made amends one minute later.

Full-back Bassem Ali muscled his way on the right and crossed with his weak left foot and the unmarked Saied pounced with a sliding shot that left keeper El Yousfi with no chance.

Ahly, who needed one more goal to advance, eased off in the second half despite retaining the better possession, giving a chance to Tetouan to launch some dangerous breakaways.

One of those counter attacks saw Mouhssine Iajour narrowly miss the target with a curling shot but Tetouan's best chance fell to Fall nine minutes past the hour mark.

Ahly's defence failed to clear a free-kick and the Senegalese defender rose above Saad Samir to head goalwards, forcing a superb save from keeper Sherif Ekramy who tipped his effort over the bar.

CAF competitions do not apply an extra time and Ahly piled on pressure in the latter stages to notch a decisive goal, to no avail. Tetouan had the final say in the nerve-jangling shootout to emerge winners.

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