Manageable in Casablanca

Alaa Abdel-Ghani , Tuesday 25 Apr 2023

Egypt’s Ahly go to Morocco taking a 2-0 first leg win against Raja in the quarter-finals of the African Champions League, reports Alaa Abdel-Ghani

Ahly beat Rajaa 2-0 in their first-leg at Cairo Stadium
Ahly beat Rajaa 2-0 in their first-leg at Cairo Stadium


Ahly of Egypt and Raja of Morocco will meet in Casablanca on Saturday in the return leg of the TotalEnergies CAF Champions League quarter-finals with Ahly holding a 2-0 lead from the first leg in Cairo.

In front of over 50,000 fans in Cairo Stadium, Raja gave Ahly a run for their money early on. Mohamed Nahiri’s free kick was palmed away by goalkeeper Mohamed Al-Shinnawi who later blocked a sure goal with an outstretched leg following a point blank shot by Mohamed Zrida.

Ahly defender Mohamed Abdel-Moneim would score what would prove to be the winning goal with a header at the half. Substitute Hamdi Fathi put the game away in the 84th minute when he found himself on a one-on-one with goalkeeper Anas Zniti.

Ahly have come out ahead of Raja in recent years, knocking them out of last season’s quarter-finals in the Champions League 3-2 on aggregate and beating them in the 2022 African Super Cup title 7-6 on penalties.

While Ahly, a record 10-time winner of the tournament, have the advantage, the game on 29 April might not be a straightforward affair; a two-goal lead is not insurmountable. The team is playing on foreign soil, Raja are a former champion of the tournament and had the best record during this year’s group stage, racking up 16 out of a maximum 18 points — five wins, one tie, and no losses — while scoring a tournament-high 17 goals, to easily top their group (albeit a weak one). Ahly, meanwhile, squeezed into the knockout stage after winning the final group stage game. And as with all North African rivalries, most bets are normally off.

Pyramids played to a 1-1 gainst Marumo Gallants of South Africa


Speaking after the game, Ahly’s first year Swiss coach Marcel Koller did not dismiss the fact that his club’s job was only half done. “We know the difficulty of the return leg. The task is not over yet and we face a big challenge,” Koller said. “Today’s result gives us an advantage, but things will be tough in Morocco and we should not take the task lightly. For me, I will play as if we are tied 0-0.”

Should Ahly get by Raja, their semi-final opponent will be either Esperance of Tunisia or Algeria’s JS Kabylie. Esperance drew first blood in the quarter-final, edging Kabylie 1-0 away from home to earn a precious first leg advantage.

Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa, one of the tournament’s heavy favourites, smashed Algeria’s CR Belouizdad in a massive 4-1 away victory on Saturday night in another quarter-final.

Simba SC of Tanzania defeated defending champions Wydad Athletic Club of Morocco 1-0 in Dar es-Salaam on Saturday.

In the second tier African football club tournament, the Confederation Cup, Egypt’s Pyramids salvaged a 1-1 draw with debutants Marumo Gallants of South Africa in the first leg of the quarters in Cairo on Sunday. Ramadan Sobhi’s late penalty at the 30 June Stadium tied the game after Gallants had gone ahead in the 56th minute to keep his side’s hopes alive ahead of the second leg away next week.

Pyramids reached the final of the Confederation Cup in their maiden participation in 2020 before losing to Morocco’s RS Berkane. In 2021 they lost in the semi-final while in 2022 they were eliminated from the competition’s quarters.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 27 April, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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