Ahly gave coach Hossam El-Badry a winning start after a last-gasp goal from Mohamed Nagy 'Gedo' gave them a 2-1 home victory over TP Mazembe of the DR Congo in their African Champions League Group B opener on Sunday.
Emad Meteb handed Ahly a first-half lead but the visitors, who played with ten men in the last eight minutes, looked to have secured a share of spoils at Cairo's Military Academy Stadium when Mbwana Samata headed home on 85 minutes with the help of a goalkeeping blunder.
However, Gedo finished off a fine move deep in stoppage time to help Ahly, who were playing their first game in the second stint of El-Badry, to an opening group-stage win at an empty stadium, given a crowd ban that has been imposed by Egyptian authorities since February's infamous Port Said tragedy.
The Red Devils are joint leaders of Group B with three points, on level with Ghana's Chelsea who beat Ahly's arch-rivals Zamalek 3-2 in an exciting clash on Saturday.
Ahly and Zamalek will meet in an anticipated game on 22 July, which will coincide with the third day of Muslims' holy month of Ramadan.
Ahly's intricate passing game gave them the upper hand in the first half, thanks to some neat combinations between attacking midfielders Walid Soliman and Mohamed Abou-Treika and lone striker Meteb.
They were rewarded after 12 minutes when classy playmaker Abou-Treika released Soliman on the left to pull the ball back to Meteb, whose precise low shot from the edge of the area went into the bottom corner of the net.
Mazembe kept the ball for long spells but struggled to create clear-cut chances and were only restricted to some tame long-range efforts. Putting in a largely efficient display, Ahly remained dangerous on the break.
They could have doubled their advantage on 33 minutes following another flowing move similar to the one that led to the opening goal. Soliman ran onto a through pass from Abou-Treika on the left before delivering a low cross that found Meteb, whose close-range effort was denied by Mazembe keeper Muteba Kidiaba.
Mazembe's only scare came few minutes before the break when Ahly keeper Sherif Ekramy did well to push wide a free-kick from Ngasanya Ilongo.
Low fitness levels
A dull second half saw a cautious Ahly side trying to preserve their slender advantage, apparently bearing in mind that low fitness levels might affect them in the latter stages, given lack of domestic football activity which left the team with no option but to play some low-key friendly games.
However, Mazembe were unlucky not to level the score 11 minutes after the restart when a superb curling free-kick from Miala Nkulukuta struck the post.
They also had Kimwaki dismissed in the 82nd minute for a wild challenge on Abou-Treika, who was substituted immediately afterwards, but they still managed to restore parity three minutes later when Samata rose above static defender Sherif Abdel-Fadil to meet a left-wing cross with a header that squirmed through the hands of Ekramy.
Second-half substitute Gedo came to Ahly's rescue when he smartly eluded his markers to control a pull-back from Sayed Moawad, who earlier exchanged passes with Abdallah El-Saied, and notch home with aplomb from inside the area.
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