Holders Ahly put one foot in the African Champions League group stage after a first-half rocket from Aliou Dieng gave them a 1-0 away win over Niger's Sonidep in the first leg of the competition's round of 32 on Wednesday.
The burly Malian midfielder settled a scrappy game with a 33rd-minute effort after making the most of a poor defensive clearance as Ahly got the job done despite missing several regulars, including two key players who contracted COVID-19.
The bumpy pitch at the General Seyni Kountche Stadium in Niamey made life hard for both sides, with Ahly unable to impose their trademark playing style and swift passing game.
Chances were few and far between but Ahly had the lion's share of the few goal-scoring opportunities created in the drab affair.
Dieng broke the deadlock with a powerful left-foot shot from inside the area after a half-hearted defensive clearance fell to him.
Ahly could have added to their advantage in the second half, with lone striker Mohamed Sherif denied by the keeper in a one-on-one on 75 minutes and substitute Salah Mohsen firing over the bar from a good scoring position in stoppage time.
But they still held onto their lead, which gives them a clear advantage before they host Sonidep in the second leg in Cairo in a fortnight.
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