Nigerian forward Junior Ajayi scored twice, including a last-gasp winner, to lead an otherwise lethargic Ahly side to a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Talae El-Gaish as they returned to Egyptian Premier League action on Sunday.
El-Gaish's in-form winger Ahmed Samir curled a free kick home to give his side a surprise lead in the 26th minute, only for Ajayi to head an equaliser shortly after.
Ahly threw men forward in the second half in search of a winner, which came one minute into stoppage time, thanks to the livewire Ajayi.
The 25-year-old finished off a move he started after robbing El-Gaish substitute Franck Engonga before feeding Mohamed Hani on the right. The full-back's cross caused mayhem and the onrushing Ajayi was on hand to stab the ball home from close range.
The win came in a timely manner after Ahly suffered a shock 1-0 defeat at Tanzania's Simba in their second group-stage game of the African Champions League last week.
Their previous league game ended in a 0-0 draw with Pyramids FC last month, after which they engaged in Club World Cup and Champions League commitments.
Ahly, who are eyeing a sixth consecutive league crown, moved up to second on 24 points, five behind Zamalek, who played two games more. El-Gaish are 15th with 12 points, just two above the drop zone.
Taken by surprise
El-Gaish took Ahly by surprise after adopting a bold approach, pressing their illustrious opponents high up the pitch and taking the game to them.
Samir could have opened the scoring as early as the sixth minute when he broke clear following a defence-splitting pass, but his low shot was denied by a superb one-handed save from Ahly keeper Mohamed El-Shennawi.
However, El-Shennawi was powerless to stop Samir from giving E-Gaish a surprise lead with a curling free kick that sailed over the wall and past him on 26 minutes.
Ahly continued to create little but still managed to level the score five minutes later when playmaker Magdi Afsha floated a cross to Ajayi, who escaped his marker and wrong-footed the keeper with a fine header into the far corner.
El-Gaish remained the better side, spurning another goal-scoring chance two minutes before the break when Amr Gamal, an ex-Ahly striker, could only head a tame header into the hands of El-Shennawi after being picked out unmarked by a right-wing cross.
Although Ahly poured forward en masse in the second half, they struggled for clear-cut chances.
El-Shennawi came to their rescue when he charged out to thwart Nasser Mansi in a one-on-one situation before Ajayi netted the winner to give Ahly a precious victory.
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