Ahly's Marwan Mohsen in action with CF Mounana's Ralph Bamba (Reuters)
Last season's runners-up Ahly kicked off their African Champions League campaign with a comfortable 4-0 home win over Gabon's C.F. Mounana in the first leg of the competition's round of 32 to close on a place in the group stage on Tuesday.
Playmaker Abdallah El-Said, whose future is under scrutiny after reports said he was reluctant to extend his deal, which expires at the end of the season, stole the limelight with a second-half brace.
He also created an early opener for striker Marwan Mohsen, who scored for the second straight game after recovering from a lengthy injury lay-off. Moroccan frontman Walid Azaro was also on target, making up for two glaring misses in the first 13 minutes.
Ahly are unlikely to face any trouble when they face Mounana in the second leg in Libreville on 17 March as they begin their quest for a record-extending ninth triumph.
In an unfamiliar formation, Ahly coach Hossam El-Badry opted to field two strikers in Mohsen and Azaro.
Azaro failed to convert an early cross with the goal gaping and had a tame, close-range shot easily collected by the keeper with the goal at his mercy as Ahly mounted early pressure.
It was clear Mounana would not be able to resist for long as Mohsen opened the scoring after 14 minutes, collecting a pass from El-Said to cut inside his challenger and drill into the bottom corner past wrong-footed keeper Yves Bitseki.
Azaro atoned for his misses to double the lead on 22 minutes, racing past a static defence to latch onto a brilliant long ball from defensive midfielder Hossam Ashour, which he launched from his own half, to send a delicate left-foot effort into the corner of the net.
Ahly took their foot off the gas pedal after taking a 2-0 halftime lead and Mounana had a rare chance eight minutes after the break when Allen Nono went close with a low shot from inside the area that narrowly missed the target.
Substitute Walid Soliman had a penalty blocked by Bitseki after he was felled by the keeper in the 64th minute but El-Said made amends one minute later, firing home with a composed finish after a cut-back from Tunisian left-back Ali Maaloul.
A clumsy defensive challenge resulted in another penalty for Ahly, which El-Said converted in the 69th minute to complete the rout and leave the team with an easy mission in the second leg.
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