Egypt's Ahly felt they deserved something better than a 1-0 loss away to South Africa's Orlando Pirates which left them facing the risk of finishing a season without a major trophy for the first time in more than a decade.
Thamsanqa Gabuza scored after eight minutes as the hosts, cheered on by an enthusiastic home crowd at the Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg, took a first-leg advantage in the African Confederation Cup semi final.
Ahly struggled to carve out openings but still had a couple of goal-scoring chances to level the score either side of the interval, with Moemen Zakareya rattling the post with a powerful shot in the first half and substitute Malick Evouna denied by a last-ditch defensive interception in the second.
The defeat came less than a week after Ahly lost 2-0 to Zamalek in the Egypt Cup final, having also finished runners up to their Cairo rivals in the Egyptian Premier League.
"We spoke about the speed and performance of Pirates since we were in Egypt. We struggled with it early on. I'm disappointed with this result because we had chances to make our possession count," Ahly's under-fire coach Fathi Mabrouk was quoted as telling the post-match news conference by Pirates' official Twitter feed.
"Ahly are a team of champions and in the return leg we will make sure we use the opportunities better.
"We played a good game and the only difference for us was how we were missing the easy opportunities. But this is football. We learn."
Ahly still have a chance to overturn the narrow deficit and continue their bid towards a second successive Confederation Cup title when they host Pirates in the second leg next week.
"It was important to keep a clean sheet at home vs a good team. We defended very well. I'm happy with the 1-0 win. Objective done," said Pirates coach Eric Tinkler.
"We made some poor decisions in some parts but overall I'm very very happy. Now it's up to Ahly to come at us. We won't get to Cairo & park the bus. We don't know how to do that & we won't even try."
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