Ahly regained their position on top of the Egyptian Premier League after claiming a 3-1 home victory over promoted Dakhleya at an empty Cairo Stadium on Wednesday.
The Red Devils, missing their enthusiastic supporters due to a sanction imposed by the Egyptian Football Association for crowd troubles, went to the locker room 2-0 up, thanks to goals from central defender Wael Gomaa and striker Emad Meteb.
Hossam Ghaly put the result beyond doubt with a second-half header before Guinean forward Lama Kone grabbed a late consolation for Dakhleya.
Ahly had to play with 10 men for around 14 minutes after Mauritania striker Dominique Da Silva, who came on as a second-half substitute, was injured with all three substitutions made.
The result hardly reflected the nature of the game, as a brave Dakhleya side spurned a handful of goal-scoring chances after Ahly’s defenders were caught napping on many occasions.
Ahly’s second consecutive victory put them on the top of the 19-team table with 11 points, one ahead of bitter foes Ismaily who briefly moved top after beating ENPPI 2-1 earlier in the day.
Dakhleya remained second from bottom on a solitary point from four games.
Ahly coach Manuel Jose stuck to the traditional 3-5-2 formation which helped the team defeat Ittihad of Alexandria 2-0 in their previous game.
However, his decision to field a lone central midfielder in Ghaly, who gave away many passes, allowed Dakhleya to have the upper hand in the early stages.
Meteb wasted an early opportunity to give Ahly the lead when he flicked a low cross from the lively Walid Soliman just wide of the post but Dakhleya could have grabbed a stunning lead on a couple of occasions shortly after.
A powerful volley by Mahmoud Abou-Serie struck the bar after a breakaway while Guinean forward Kone hit the side netting with the goal at his mercy after running onto a defense-splitting pass.
The individual efforts of Ahly’s skilful forwards made the difference though, with Meteb winning a penalty after 20 minutes when he gathered a miscued defensive clearance and rounded the keeper, who had no option but to trip him.
Gomaa, who was nowhere near his best, dispatched the penalty to put Ahly in front.
The hosts doubled their advantage on 27 minutes when full-back Ahmed Fathi latched onto a threaded pass from Abdallah El-Saied to dart down the right flank, hold off a challenger and send in a low cross.
The cross evaded the keeper and found Soliman, who mis-hit his shot with the goal gaping but Meteb made amends with a bicycle kick to leave Dakhleya with a mountain to climb.
The introduction of defensive midfielder Moataz Eno after the break did little to improve Ahly’s shaky defense, as Dakhleya created several clear-cut chances after exploiting the huge gaps in their opponents’ backline.
The visitors were made to pay for a lack of cutting edge though, with striker Hamada Yehia missing the target twice after being put clean through.
Ghaly ensured Ahly’s win when he towered unmarked to head home an inch-perfect cross from Fathi five minutes past the hour mark.
A dreadful blunder by Gomaa allowed Lama to notch home with six minutes remaining as Dakhleya piled on pressure in the latter stages, but they couldn’t add to their tally.