Cairo giants Ahly, playing their first competitive game since the Port Said disaster, put one foot in the African Champions League round of 16 after settling for a goalless draw at Ethiopian Coffee in the first leg of the competition’s round of 32.
The second leg will take place in Cairo on 8 April but it remains to be seen whether Ahly’s fans will be allowed to attend the match, given security concerns in the country.
Domestic football activities have been suspended since the Port Said tragedy left at least 74 fans dead and hundreds injured on the first of February. The Egyptian Premier League was called off earlier this month.
The interior ministry is likely to demand that Ahly’s home game against Ethiopian Coffee be played behind closed doors to avoid possible crowd trouble.
The match came two days after the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) banned Port Said-based club Masry for two seasons in the wake of Egypt’s worst-ever football disaster, the sanction which Ahly deemed “too lenient”.
Ultras Ahlawy, the team’s hard-core supporters, have begun a sit-in in front of the People Assembly on Sunday to demand tougher punishments.
Chances were few and far between in a dull first half, with the poor state of the muddy, almost grassless pitch making it difficult for both sides to move the ball around.
The hosts, roared on by an enthusiastic crowd, had the better possession and were unlucky not to go ahead after eight minutes when Massoud Mohammed broke clear of defence but Ahly keeper Sherif Ekramy rushed out to block his shot.
Ahly had to make an early substitution after left-back Sayed Moawad picked up a hamstring injury. He made way for diminutive winger Ahmed Shedid.
The visitors notably improved after the break, putting their opponents on the back foot and wasting several clear-cut opportunities.
They relied on the pace of forward Mohamed Nagy “Gedo” to break down the Ethiopian backline, with the Egyptian international running on to repeated deft passes from veteran playmaker Mohamed Abou-Treika, who came on as a second-half substitute.
Gedo sent two free headers wide and was also guilty of spurning a golden chance six minutes past the hour mark when he was released by Abou-Treika before cutting inside his marker in the area. However, his weak shot failed to trouble the keeper.
Ahly piled on pressure in the latter stages and almost snatched a valuable victory in stoppage time when Abou-Treika was picked out unmarked by a pinpoint right-wing cross from Ahmed Fathi but he could only head straight into the keeper’s hands.
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