Ahly, playing with nine men, were about to pay for their wastefulness but Karim Bambo came off the bench to head home with five minutes remaining and give his side a precious 1-0 win over 10-man Arab Contractors in the Egyptian Premier League on Wednesday.
The 21-year-old, a promising winger, sent a looping header past the badly-positioned Mahmoud Aboul-Saoud, a former Ahly keeper who had otherwise produced a string of impressive saves to thwart the Red Devils on many occasions.
Emad Meteb spearheaded Ahly's attack after notching a hat-trick in an exciting 4-2 victory over promoted Damanhour but he was largely a peripheral figure, with the attacking midfielders overshadowing him with a vivid display that only lacked the finishing touches.
Contractors had midfielder Karim Mostafa sent off and Ahly's left-back Sabri Rahil and central defender Mohamed Naguib were also dismissed early in the second half, all for second bookable offenses, but the title holders still prevailed despite their numerical disadvantage.
Ahly, who are chasing a ninth consecutive title, moved to the ninth place with 11 points, just three short of joint leaders Haras El-Hodoud and Masry, with the latter having played a game more. Contractors are a distant 15th on six points.
Ahly, who were largely helped by an energetic display from in-form Mahmoud 'Trezeguet' Hassan, created a flurry of goal-scoring opportunities in the first half but lacked the cutting edge while Contractors spurned one clear-cut chance on the break.
Trezeguet, a pacy central midfielder, jinked into the area and skipped past two defenders in the process but dragged his shot wide after 16 minutes while defensive midfielder Hossam Ashour sent a blistering long-range volley just over the bar six minutes later.
Trezeguet had another chance shortly after when he superbly chested a cross from right-back Bassem Ali to hold off two challengers but his effort from inside the six-yard box was thwarted by Aboul-Saoud, who stole the show with a series of impressive saves.
Ahly's best chance fell to Meteb on 37 minutes when a flowing move saw Trezeguet send a diagonal cross to the 31-year-old but his far-post shot flew wide.
Contractors almost punished Ahly for their wastefulness four minutes before the break when a neatly-worked counter attack released the menacing Mohamed Salem but his angled shot narrowly missed the target.
Three red cards
Ahly continued from where they left off and looked about to end the resistance of Contractors when Mostafa was sent off for fouling Basem Ali in an action-packed second half but numbers were quickly evened up as Rahil received his marching orders three minutes later for catching an opponent with a high boot on the edge of the area.
The numerical advantage swung Contractors way five minutes past the hour mark when Naguib was dismissed for a last-man foul on Salem but Ahly were hardly affected, launching a wave after wave of attacks.
The introduction of promising youngsters Ramadan Sobhi and Bambo proved vital as Ahly's pressure finally paid off in the dying minutes.
A poor defensive clearance following a cross fell to Bambo, whose looping header caught Aboul-Saoud off-guard to give Ahly all three points.
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