Ahly survive tense moments in Sudan to reach Champions League quarters

Hatem Maher , Saturday 1 Feb 2020

File photo of Ahly's home Champions League clash against Al-Hilal (Al-Ahram)

Egypt's Ahly survived a late scare in Sudan's Omdurman to book their place in the African Champions League quarters following a tense 1-1 draw with Al-Hilal on Saturday.

Needing only a draw to advance, the game looked dead and buried when Magdi Afsha fired Ahly in front three minutes into the second half, silencing a passionate crowd.

Tensions boiled over with 15 minutes remaining as Al-Hilal players harangued the referee more than once. Two fans invaded the pitch and a barrage of projectiles were thrown onto the field, forcing a seven-minute stoppage as security forces formed a cordon around the officials and both teams.

When the game resumed, substitute Mahmoud Kahraba, who joined Ahly in January, could not find an open net after rounding the keeper and the glaring miss could have proved costly.

Deep in stoppage time, a rare defensive lapse allowed Al-Hilal to equalise, substitute Abdelrazig Omer stabbing home from close range after Abou Aagla lofted the ball over a static center back.

Al-Hilal had a goal correctly ruled out for offside at the death in a frenetic finale as Ahly breathed a sigh of relief after the final whistle, despite missing the chance to secure passage to the last eight as the group winners.

They instead finished second in their group with 11 points, one behind leaders Etoile Sahel who beat bottom side Platinum of Zimbabwe 2-0 in the other group match. Al-Hilal are third on 10 points, narrowly missing out on a quarter-final berth.

Balanced strategy

Ahly's balanced strategy worked well in the first half, forcing Al-Hilal to launch some innocuous long balls which were no trouble to a composed defence.

Al-Hilal forwards could not also break the offside trap on several occasions while the only half-chance in the first period fell to the visitors.

In the 13th minute, lone striker Marwan Mohsen ran onto a threaded pass but fired high over from a tight angle.

Ahly remained in control in the second half and apart from a wayward shot from Al-Hilal's Mohamed Mokhtar in the 47th minute, they were comfortable at the back.

They silenced the home crowd just one minute later following a neatly-worked move.

Central midfielder Amr El-Sulaya sent a perfectly-weighted pass to Hussein El-Shahat to beat the offside trap at the far post, with the winger crossing low for Afsha to side-foot home.

A lengthy stoppage dampened Al-Hilal's spirit, with Kahraba missing a sitter on 88 minutes when he broke clear and skipped past the keeper, only to needlessly dither on the ball and fire into the side netting.

Omer gave Al-Hilal a lifeline five minutes into the additional time but another vital goal did not materialize as record eight-time winners Ahly continued their bid towards their first Champions League crown since 2013.  

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