The replay of an African Champions League clash at Coton Sport might have come in handy for title holders Ahly, who made light of apparent exhaustion to hold the Cameroonians to a 1-1 draw in Garoua in the first leg of the competition’s semis on Sunday.
The match looked as though it was heading for a goalless draw on Saturday before it was called off after the pitch was deemed unplayable by Zambian referee Jan Sikazwe due to torrential rain.
The decision to cancel the match with 30 minutes remaining sparked furious protests from Ahly’s coach and players, who had the upper hand on Saturday and were unlucky not to score an away goal.
However, despite putting in a less spirited display in Sunday’s replayed encounter, the outcome favoured the Red Devils after evergreen playmaker Mohamed Abou-Treika brought them level with a superb goal on the stroke of halftime, cancelling out Emmanuel Mbongo’s 34th-minute lead.
Ahly will be favourites to reach their second consecutive final when they host Coton Sport in the second leg on 20 October, five days following Egypt’s crucial clash away to Ghana in the first leg of the World Cup qualifying playoff.
Such a hectic schedule prompted Ahly coach Mohamed Youssef to rest veteran central defender Wael Gomaa, bringing on Sherif Abdel-Fadil who was at fault for Coton Sport’s opener.
Abou-Treika, one of Egypt’s irrepressible players, was also replaced shortly after the hour mark.
Coton Sport were relatively better in a first half that witnessed few goalscoring chances at either ends.
They sent the home fans into raptures when Mbongo ran onto a long ball, outpaced Abdel-Fadil before cutting inside him and sending in a low that that struck the hands of keeper Sherif Ekramy and looped into the net.
Ahly wasted a couple of chances to restore parity, with a close-range header from lone striker Ahmed Abdel-Zaher tipped onto the post by Coton keeper Maxime Feudjou, who then denied winger Walid Soliman in a one-on-one.
Abou-Treika made amends in superb fashion to level the score just before the half-time whistle.
The 34-year-old, who steered Ahly to four Champions League titles and is fondly remembered for a last-gasp strike against Tunisia’s Sfaxien in the 2006 final, met a cross with a catchy flick to elude his challenger before drilling a low shot under the advancing guardian and into the net.
Coton applied pressure in the second half but failed to break down a tight backline.
Ahly’s rookie coach Youssef was sent off, apparently for protesting a decision from the referee, but he will still be satisfied that he got a valuable draw on the road.
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