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Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Toothless Ahly held by Zambia's Zanaco in CL group-stage opener

Ahram Online , Saturday 13 May 2017
Mido
Ahly attacking midfielder Mido Gaber challenging for the ball with Zanaco's Zimiseleni Moyo (Photo: Ahram)
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Egyptian league holders Ahly failed to open their Champions League group-stage campaign with victory after being held to a goalless draw by Zambian side Zanaco at Alexandria's Borg El-Arab Stadium on Saturday.

A disappointing display saw Ahly struggle to mount threats despite dominating possession against their unfancied opponents, who also tried to hit the Red Devils on the break. 

The absence of midfielder Hossam Ashour, due to family reasons, looked to have affected the rigidity of the Reds' midfield – which comprised skipper Hossam Ghaly and Amr El-Sulaya.

Going forward, Ahly's attackers hardly troubled Zanaco's rearguard, with striker Soulaymane Coulibaly not enjoying his best of games, as Mido Gaber, Abdallah El-Said and Junior Ajayi failed to sparkle.

However, Coulibaly could have still snatched a precious win in stoppage time but had a close-range effort blocked by the keeper with the goal at his mercy. 

With Morocco's Wydad Casablanca beating Coton Sport 2-0 on Saturday, the Moroccans are now top of Group D.

Ahly control but fail to threaten so often

Ahly started the game with great intent as they seemed determined to score early on, but their most dangerous chance of the half only came after 15 minutes.

Lone striker Coulibaly saw a close-range header bounce off the ground before going over the bar for Ahly's only real chance in the first half.

Despite dictating play, the hosts struggled to create clear-cut chances against an opponent who looked to hit on the counter but barely threatened the home side's goal.

Ahly started the second with similar determination and it was barely two minutes after the restart when keeper Toaster Nsabata denied a header from skipper Ghaly – who looked out of sorts.

Zanaco's Zimiseleni Moyo could have scored when a low strike deflected off an Ahly defender before going narrowly wide of the post.

Shortly afterwards, Ajayi went through on goal but instead of shooting, curiously elected to cut the ball back to El-Said who blasted his effort high over.

The Egyptian league leaders remained in control but again failed to pose real threat on goal with the majority of their crosses headed away by the visitors' defense.

Zanaco, on the other side, looked to have some promising counter-attacks as they went three versus three more than once before being eventually let down by some poor passing.

But the glaring miss of the game belonged to the Ivorian Coulibaly in the first minute of stoppage time when he received the ball inside the six-yard box unmarked before swiveling and shooting straight into the keeper's body.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

 
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