Egypt's Ahly stunned by ZESCO to lose group opener for first time in 10 years

Hatem Maher , Saturday 18 Jun 2016

Ramadan Sobhi
File photo of Ahly's Ramadan Sobhi, who created two goals for Ghanaian striker John Antwi but his side lost 3-2 to ZESCO United in the African Champions League on Saturday (Reuters)

Egypt's Ahly were duly punished for their disastrous defending to slump to a surprise 3-2 defeat at Zambia's ZESCO United, their first loss in an African Champions League group-stage opener since 2006.

John Ching'andu put the hosts ahead in the first half at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola but Ghanaian striker John Antwi restored parity shortly after following an assist from prodigy Ramadan Sobhi.

Clatous Chama, who unsettled Ahly's backline with his mesmerizing skills, scored twice early in the second half to set ZESCO on their way to a comfortable win but Antwi netted again from a carbon copy move after being set up by Sobhi to narrow the gap.

ZESCO held on in the dying minutes, soaking up pressure and threatening to add a fourth on the break to secure a precious victory in their opening Group A clash.

Ahly's last loss in an opening group-stage encounter was 10 years ago at the hands of Tunisia's Sfaxien. The Red Devils eventually won the competition after beating the same opponents with a memorable last-gasp volley from club icon Mohamed Abou-Treika.

Ivory Coast's ASEC Mimosas take on Morocco's Wydad Casablanca in the other group match later on Saturday.

Smooth rides

Although Ahly's Dutch coach Martin Jol fielded a three-man midfield to stifle ZESCO's attack, the hosts largely enjoyed smooth rides to the penalty area, helped in part by repeated mistakes from skipper Hossam Ghaly.

The central midfielder gave away possession in his own half more than once as ZESCO repeatedly tried their luck from the edge of the area, with goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy on alert to thwart a couple of shots.

However, the 32-year-old custodian, who has come in for fierce criticism lately for some shaky displays, was at fault for the opening goal on 27 minutes.

After a superb three-man move, Ching'andu bamboozled Ahly's central defender Ahmed Hegazy on the edge of the area, tricking him to one direction and moving the other way before sending an innocuous shot that struck the hands of Ekramy and sailed into the net.

ZESCO's celebrations were short-lived though, with Antwi leveling the score four minutes later.

The keeper could only get a hand to Saleh Gomaa's cross from the left, with the ball falling to in-form winger Ramadan Sobhi who held off his challenger to feed the Ghanaian striker whose side-foot effort hit the poorly-positioned guardian and went home.

ZESCO continued to exploit Ahly's defensive weaknesses in the second half, with Mwape Mwelwa going close with a shot on the turn before Chama restored their advantage in the 49th minute in controversial fashion.

He popped up at the far post to roll a low cross into an empty net although television replays showed that he was in an offside position.

ZESCO continued to attack at will and extended their lead on 56 minutes following another well-made move. Ayo Oluwafemi was fed on the left before superbly skipping past Ahly's right-back Ahmed Fathi, sending in a low cross that Chama converted into the bottom corner.

Jol introduced winger Walid Soliman and central midfielder Amr El-Sulaya to inject zeal as ZESCO looked capable of adding more goals but it was Sobhi who once again rose to the occasion to help Ahly reduce the arrears eight minutes past the hour mark.

The 19-year-old turned his challenger inside out on the left hand side of the area before squaring the ball to the unmarked Antwi, who expertly turned and fired home from close range.

Ahly poured forward in the latter stages but were unable to find a precious equaliser to suffer an opening group loss.

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