The performance of Ahly coach Juan Garrido remains under the spotlight after the team’s Monday loss to Arab Contractors in the Egyptian Premier League.
Garrido, who steered Ahly to the Egyptian Super Cup and African Confederation Cup titles in his first season in charge, needed a win to close the gap with arch-rivals Zamalek and to secure his future with the Cairo giants.
The Spanish coach was heavily criticised following some below-par displays in the domestic league, but club management recently assured that he is remaining in his post.
A victory was also essential to boost Ahly's morale ahead of the must-win clash against Moghreb Tétouan in the second leg of the CAF Champions League round of 16. The Egyptian team slumped to a 1-0 first-leg loss in Morocco.
Ahly, who are seeking to equal their own record of winning nine league titles in a row, are facing a difficult situation now after Monday's loss, as they lie third in the table with 46 points, 11 behind leaders and Zamalek with 13 matches to go.
Ahly made an enthusiastic start to the match, aiming to score early to ease the tension and put early pressure on Arab Contractor players.
The Reds had the upper hand in the first 15 minutes through the successive trials of active midfield trio Moemen Zakareya, Mohamed Rezk and Trezeguet to reach the goal, while the opponents were keeping a tightened defence.
Veteran coach Hassan Shehata’s focus on intensifying defense and making the best use of counter-attacks was a main reason behind the Contractors team’s success in keeping a clean sheet.
Arab Contractors had their first try at reaching the Reds’ goal in the 21st minute, but did not pose a real threat.
Contractors' goal scorer Ernest Papa Arko took a second precious chance, but in vain.
Ahly was dealt a blow 10 minutes before the break after losing left-back Hussein El-Sayed due to injury.
A second-half revival for Arab Contractors
Early on, Garrido replaced Nigerian striker Peter Ebimobowei with playmaker Walid Soliman in a bid to refresh his attacking line.
Fearing a draw, Ahly players fought fiercely in a last bid to score but they weren't lucky enough.
Ethiopia striker Saladin Said replaced teammate Mohamed Rezk in the 63rd minute to give more efficiency to Ahly's frontline.
Twenty minutes after the second-half start, Contractors' midfield continued its success in stopping any threat of Ahly attacks.
In some chances, second-half substitutes Soliman and Saladin tried to repay the faith of their coach, but failed.
In the 78th minute, Contractors' forward Mohamed Taher surprisingly wasted a certain goal for his team.
A minute later, in a sudden Contractors revival, forward Mohamed Salem cleverly escaped from Ahly defenders to score the opener and put his team in the lead.
In the last minutes before the final whistle, Ahly players were fighting to restore the balance, but unfortunately the battle ended with them losing three precious points and a victory to their stiff opponents.
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