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Monday, 14 June 2021

Egypt's Ahly put one foot in Champions League final with 2-0 win in Casablanca

Two goals either side of the interval puts Ahly on the brink of a place in the African Champions League final with a 2-0 victory at Morocco's Wydad

Hatem Maher , Saturday 17 Oct 2020
Ahly
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Egypt's Ahly moved within touching distance of reaching the African Champions League final for the third time in four years, producing an impressive away display to down Morocco's Wydad 2-0 in the semi-final first leg on Saturday.

An early goal from Magdi Afsha and a second-half penalty from Tunisian left-back Ali Maaloul helped Ahly put one foot in the final as they chase a record-extending ninth triumph and their first in seven years.

Wydad, who were hapless throughout at their own Mohammed V Stadium in Casablanca, appeared to be dearly affected by the absence of several key players, especially in defence, where natural midfielder Yahya Jabrane was repeatedly exposed.

Jabrane, drafted as a central defender due to shortage of options at the back, was robbed by Afsha for Ahly's opener before blocking a shot from Nigerian forward Junior Ajayi with his arm shortly after the hour mark, with Maaloul tucking away the resulting penalty.

Wydad, who beat Ahly in a two-legged final in 2017, have tasted their first home defeat in the competition since losing to the Cairo giants in 2016.

The Red Devils will be firm favourites to advance to the final when they host Wydad next week at Cairo Stadium.

Bold approach

Ahly took Wydad by surprise in their early stages, adopting a bold approach and pressing the hosts high up the pitch.

They opened the scoring as early as the fourth minute when the hesitant Jabrane gave away possession as Afsha broke clear to calmly slot the ball past the keeper and into the bottom corner.

Ahly were pegged back after going ahead and too many mis-placed passes in their own half allowed Wydad to mount pressure, although the Moroccans were still too lethargic to create openings.

It took Wydad until the latter stages of the half to create some danger, with Walid El Karti mis-hitting a close-range volley and veteran winger Ismail El Haddad blasting high over from a good scoring position.

They were then awarded a penalty after VAR review on 39 minutes when Ivorian striker Gbagbo Magbi appeared to have been felled by keeper Mohamed El-Shennawi after running onto a threaded pass, only for Badie Aouk to send a tame spot-kick down the middle and straight into the hands of the in-form goalie.

There was more bad news for Wydad in a second half dominated by a composed Ahly side, whose fast breakaways unsettled their opponents' shaky backline.

After a well-worked counter attack, Jabrane conceded a penalty that Maaloul converted after sending keeper Reda Tagnaouti the wrong way, leaving Wydad with an uphill to climb.

Ahly held firm in the latter stages and were barely troubled to secure a vital win on the road.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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