A dubious first-half penalty gave Tunisia’s Etoile Sahel a 1-0 home victory over title holders Ahly to condemn the Egyptian giants to their first defeat in Group A of the African Confederation Cup on Saturday.
Youssef Mouihbi converted a 26th-minute spot kick that was controversially awarded when striker Baghdad Bounedjah theatrically fell in the penalty area under an apparent challenge from Ahly’s central defender Mohamed Naguib.
A below-par Ahly side, featuring two new signings in their starting line-up, barely troubled keeper Aymen Mathlouthi as Etoile claimed their first home win over the Red Devils in 11 competitive meetings between both sides.
Etoile also avenged their 1-0 defeat in Suez last month, which came courtesy of a superb strike by Walid Soliman.
Ahly, who became the first Egyptian side to win Africa’s secondary club competition when they defeated Ivory Coast’s Sewe Sport in a two-legged final last year, are now second in the group with seven points after being overtaken at the top by Etoile, who collected nine points from four matches.
They will visit Tunisia’s Esperance (0 points) and host Stade Malien (four), who will meet in the other group game on Sunday, in their final two matches.
Midfielder Saleh Gomaa, who joined from ENPPI, and right-back Ahmed Fathi, who rejoined the club from Qatar’s Umm Salal, were the only summer arrivals to be included in Ahly’s starting line-up.
Both made a fine impact in a first half largely dominated by the hosts, with Gomaa providing flashes of his talent in the centre of the field and Fathi closing down spaces on the right, leaving Etoile to exploit gaps on the other flank.
Ahly, who played with five defenders, were porous in the center of their backline and on the left, where Sabri Rahil and Sherif Hazem were caught off guard more than once.
Etoile’s liveliest first-half performer was towering striker Bounedjah, who tested keeper Sherif Ekramy with a snap shot on the turn on 17 minutes and was close to breaking the deadlock five minutes later when he ran onto a long ball, only for Mohamed Naguib to make a last-ditch interception and clear the danger.
The Tunisians were awarded the controversial penalty shortly after when Bounedjah was adjudged to have been tripped by Naguib as he charged goalwards. Television replays showed there was no contact between both men but Mouihbi stepped up to send Ekramy the wrong way and send the fans into raptures.
Ahly’s only real chance before the break fell to the veteran Emad Meteb, the lone striker who blasted a low cross from Fathi high over with the goal at his mercy.
Bounedjah was guilty of spurning some clear-cut chances in the second half after continuing to catch Ahly’s central defenders napping, the closest of which came on 62 minutes when he exchanged passes with a teammate and broke clear only for his weak low shot to be thwarted by Ekramy.
The introduction of Ghanaian striker John Antwi, a new arrival, and another frontman in Amr Gamal failed to revitalize a sluggish Ahly attack as Etoile held on for a precious win.
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