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Ahly's Champions League hopes in tatters after draw with Wydad

Hatem Maher , Saturday 16 Jul 2016
Ahly v Wydad
Ahly's Ahmed Fathi (C-L) marks Wydad's Ismail Haddad (R) during their CAF Champions League group A stage football match between Egypt's Ahly and Morocco's Wydad Casablanca at the Borg el-Arab Stadium in Alexandria on July 16, 2016 (AFP)
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Ahly's African Champions League hopes look to be effectively over after they failed to grab their first Group A victory, with a resolute Wydad Casablanca side retaining their position on top after holding the Egyptian champions to a 0-0 draw in Alexandria on Saturday.

Despite being roared on by their passionate supporters at the Borg El-Arab Stadium, Ahly were easily kept at bay and Wydad spurned two clear-cut chances either side of the interval which if converted would have handed the Red Devils a third straight group-stage defeat.

Ahly were still unlucky when a goal by Walid Soliman was wrongfully disallowed for offside in the second half but they could have few complaints after another uninspiring display, less than a month after they won the Egyptian Premier League for the ninth time in 10 seasons.

The draw leaves Ahly, who won the last of their record eight Champions League titles in 2013, at the bottom with a solitary point. Wydad top the group with seven points, followed by Zambia's Zesco United (6) and Ivory Coast's ASEC Mimosas (3).

Ahly need to win their remaining three matches, including two away games against Wydad and ASEC, to stand a chance of booking one of two tickets to the semi-final.

No spark

Devoid of spark, Ahly struggled without winger Ramadan Sobhi, who is set for an imminent move to Stoke City in the English Premier League, and injured playmaker Abdallah El-Saied whose defence-splitting passes were sorely missed.

A classic 4-4-2 formation failed to spur a lethargic side, whose two wingers fared poorly to remind their fans of what they miss following the departure of Sobhi and pacy striker Malick Evouna, who sealed a $7 million move to Tianjin Teda last week.

A watertight Wydad defence restricted Ahly to same tame efforts in the first half, with the hosts only creating one chance after seven minutes when winger Walid Soliman skied a volley with the goal at his mercy after keeper Zouheir Laaroubi fumbled a cross into his path.

It was the visitors who could have gone ahead when Ismail Haddad broke clear after running onto a deft pass from striker Fabrice Ondama following a neatly-worked counter attack.

However, Ahly's keeper Ahmed Adel, who deputizes for the off-form Sherif Ekramy, breathed a sigh of relief after Haddad's chip narrowly missed the target.

Laaroubi remained shaky and he let another innocuous cross slip from his grasp on 58 minutes, with Hegazy rolling the ball goalwards before Zakareya stuck out his foot to put it into an empty net, only to be flagged for offside. Television replays showed that the goal was legitimate.

Ahly still had the lion's share of possession but Wydad once again threatened on the break, with a superb three-man move involving Ondama, Walid El Karti and substitute Mohamed Ounajem slicing open the defence before keeper Adel's interception thwarted them.

The lively Ondama also rattled the post with a right-foot shot from a tight angle on 69 minutes after turning Rami Rabia inside out as Wydad looked increasingly dangerous.

Ahly pushed forward in the final stages and substitute Emad Meteb hit the side netting with a low shot but Wydad held firm to deal a serious blow to their opponents' semi-final prospects.

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