Ahly continued their bid towards a second straight African Confederation Cup title when an early goal by Ghanaian striker John Antwi gave them an easy 1-0 win at Tunisia's Esperance and put them within touching distance of a last-four spot on Saturday.
The Egyptian giants are on the brink of advancing after Antwi's fifth-minute strike moved them top with 10 points, one ahead of Tunisia's Etoile Sahel who play third-placed Stade Malien (four points) on Sunday.
If Etoile avoid defeat away to Stade Malien, they will qualify for the semis along with defending champions Ahly, who won last year's title at the expense of Ivorian side Sewe Sport in a two-legged final.
Stade Malien's only chance of going through is defeating Etoile at home and Ahly in Cairo in their remaining two games. Esperance, who lost 3-0 to Ahly in Suez in June, are at the bottom after they could only collect three points from five games.
A needless offside trap adopted by Esperance was repeatedly exploited by a vibrant Ahly attack, resulting in a fifth-minute opener from new recruit Antwi, who scored four goals in the team's record 13-0 hammering of Gouna, who played with teenagers, in the Egypt Cup earlier this month.
The robust frontman started the move, feeding Abdallah El-Saied and charging forward as the playmaker released in-form youngster Ramadan Sobhi with a defence-splitting pass on the right.
Sobhi, who is likened to Ahly great Mohamed Abou-Treika, squared the ball for Antwi who lashed the ball home, with Esperance offering little upfront apart from a long-range shot from forward Fakhreddine Ben Youssef that went just over the bar.
Sobhi spurned a goalscoring chance to double the lead midway through the first half when he broke clear following another deft pass from El-Saied but his attempt to curl the ball with the outside of his right foot resulted in a weak effort that was easily saved by keeper Moez Ben Cherifia.
Ahly remained in firm control after the break, with Esperance still leaving huge gaps at the back while struggling to pour forward and mount any threats, appearing a shadow of the side that was once a powerhouse in African football.
Antwi had a goal wrongfully disallowed for offside when he headed home following a left-wing cross on 51 minutes, with two Esperance defenders playing him onside.
He was substituted in the 72nd minute after picking up an injury, making way for fellow new signing and burly striker Malick Evouna of Gabon.
Evouna and veteran striker Emad Meteb, another substitute, squandered further clear-cut chances in the dying minutes as Ahly missed out on the chance of securing a comprehensive win at Menzah Stadium but the job was still done.
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