Egyptian Premier League leaders Ahly settled for an uninspiring 0-0 draw with Pyramids FC in a drab affair on Tuesday, nine days before the Red Devils kick off their Club World Cup campaign.
Ahly were eyeing a morale-boosting victory before they meet Qatar's Al Duhail on 4 February but a slow-tempo match yielded a few goalscoring chances at Cairo's Air Defence Stadium, the home of Pyramids.
The excitement of a reunion of Pyramids' quartet Ramadan Sobhi, Ahmed Fathi, goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy and Abdallah El-Said against their ex-club was overshadowed by low quality on the pitch.
Sobhi, who incurred the wrath of Ahly's supporters by snubbing the team's offer to sign him on a permanent basis last summer, was Pyramids' liveliest performer but central defender Ayman Ashraf kept close tabs on his typical marauding runs.
Despite their third draw in nine matches, defending champions Ahly are still on top of the table with 21 points. Zamalek, second on 20 points, will overtake them if they beat Maqassa on Thursday.
Pyramids, who are hoping to challenge traditional powers Ahly and Zamalek for the league title, lie fourth with 14 points after a disappointing start to the season.
Both sides lost their right-back in the first half, with Ahly's Mohamed Hani and Pyramids' Fathi picking up injuries.
The cagey opening saw the feeble attempts of either side cut short, with defenders frequently overpowering forwards.
The only highlight of the disappointing half was a jinking run by Sobhi from the halfway line to the area on 42 minutes, which saw him trick three challengers to send a square pass to the lurking John Antwi, whose mis-hit left-foot effort went poorly wide.
The match only sprang to life in the last 20 minutes as Ahly poured forward in search of a precious winner.
Substitute Walter Bwalya, who has yet to open his Ahly account following his January arrival, spurned two clear-cut chances.
On 74 minutes, the Congolese striker broke clear but poorly passed the ball across the area instead of shooting, with Omar Gaber intercepting it to clear the danger.
His side-foot effort from an inviting cross from Magdi Afsha nine minutes later drew a superb save from Ekramy as Ahly failed to find a late winner.
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