A first-half goal by forward Mohamed ‘Gedo’ Nagy helped an otherwise wasteful Ahly side to a 1-0 home victory over Nigeria’s Sunshine Stars, lifting the Egyptian club to the African Champions League final on Sunday.
The Cairo giants, who wasted the chance to put the result beyond doubt on a handful of occasions, overcame the tournament debutants with a 4-3 aggregate victory after holding them to a thrilling 3-3 first-leg draw in Nigeria.
Gedo, who stole the limelight with an impressive performance, was unlucky not to add to his tally after seeing two headers crash off the bar either side of the interval.
Ahly have set up a mouth-watering two-legged clash against holders Esperance of Tunisia, who defeated TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo 1-0 on Saturday to qualify for their third consecutive final.
The Red Devils are eyeing a record-extending seventh Champions League title, while Esperance are seeking their third continental title.
Sunday’s game took place at a newly-built stadium in Cairo behind closed doors due to lingering security concerns. It remains to be seen whether Ahly fans will be allowed to attend the Esperance game.
A tense build-up to the game saw many Egyptian Premier League and second-division players lay siege to the hotel in which the Sunshine Stars were staying, only a few hours before kick-off.
They demanded that authorities resume the domestic football stoppage in a protest that forced a 30-minute delay of the match.
Ahly totally dominated the first half, outplaying their tame opponents and exploiting the huge gaps in the latter's defence on numerous occasions.
Gedo, who is gradually regaining the form that saw him score five goals in Egypt’s 2010 African Nations Cup triumph, was their most potent weapon, keeping Sunshine defenders on their toes with an energetic and all-round display.
His strike partner, El-Sayed Hamdi, wasted Ahly’s first chance after 19 minutes when he fired wide with the goal at his mercy after Hossam Ghaly headed the ball into his path.
Four minutes later, Gedo failed to drive the ball home on the rebound after Hamdi’s initial effort was parried by the keeper – but he made amends at the 28th minute to put Ahly in front.
He neatly exchanged passes with the lively Ghaly to break clear and send a right-foot shot that deflected off a defender and went in at the near post from a tight angle.
The 25-year-old had two free headers denied by the bar as Ahly mounted pressure.
The second half marked the return of Ahly striker Emad Meteb, who was sidelined for over a month after undergoing surgery to remove kidney stones.
He had little time to make an impact as the hosts eased off, allowing Sunshine Stars to create some chances in the latter stages, including a powerful shot from Tamen Medran that struck the woodwork in the 73rd minute.
However, Ahly held on to claim a deserved win and reach their first final since beating Cameroon’s Coton Sport in 2008.
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