Ahly overcome absences to reach Club World Cup semis with win over Monterrey

Ahram Online , Saturday 5 Feb 2022

A weakened Ahly side made light of the absence of a host of key players to reach the FIFA Club World Cup semi-final with a 1-0 victory over Mexico's Monterrey in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

Ahly players celebrate with Ahly s defender Mohamed Hani after he scored the opening goal during the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup football match between Egypt s Ahly and Mexico s Monterrey at al-Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi, on February 5, 2022 (AFP)

Right-back Mohamed Hani fired the winner eight minutes into the second half, with Ahly putting on a solid defensive display and proving dangerous on breakaways.

Monterrey's pressure did not pay dividends, with Ahly defeating the Concacaf champions on the third attempt after losing to them in the 2012 and 2013 Club World Cups, including a bitter 5-1 defeat.

Ahly set up a semi-final clash against South American champions Palmeiras in a re-match of their meeting in the third-place playoff last year.

The Red Devils beat the Brazilian giants on penalties following a 0-0 draw to win the bronze medal in Qatar.

Ahly missed more than a dozen of key players because of injury and Nations Cup commitments after FIFA had decided to go ahead with the Club World Cup despite the unusual overlap with another international tournament.

Egypt face Senegal in the Nations Cup final on Sunday, two days before Ahly meet Palmeiras. The club's Egyptian internationals are expected to directly fly to Abu Dhabi following the final.

It's the first time for Ahly, who are making a seventh appearance in the Club World Cup, to book a semi-final spot for the second time in a row.

They have done so despite fielding a youngster in defence and playing without an established striker, with Mohamed Sherif away on international duty and South African Percy Tau ruled out through injury.

Monterrey had the first scare when Rogelio Mori's shot on the turn went just wide after three minutes but Ahly winger Taher Mohamed Taher spurned a golden chance to put his side ahead one minute later.

He broke clear after a pass from Hussen El-Shahat, only to see his effort blocked by keeper Esteban Andrada.

Monterrey mounted an onslaught as Ahly defended in numbers, but the Mexicans could not find a way past their opponents' massed ranks.

Taher had another chance on 28 minutes when he was found unmarked by a cross from lively Tunisian left-back Ali Maaloul, only to volley into the hands of Andrada.

An angled effort from El-Shahat was also denied by a goal-line clearance from a Monterrey defender as Ahly proved the more dangerous side.

The deserved opener came on 53 minutes when Maaloul exchanged passes with a teammate, darted down the left and whipped in a low cross that Andrada pushed into the path of Hani, who rifled a powerful first-timer into an empty net from just inside the area.

Ahly's stand-in keeper Ali Lotfi, deputizing for Egypt's Mohamed El-Shennawi, thwarted what looked a certain equaliser three minutes later when he tipped over a close-range header from Maximiliano Meza.

Monterrey pushed forward in the latter stages in a desperate attempt to equalise but Ahly stood firm to snatch a precious win.

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