El-Sayed Hamdi (C) of Egypt's Ahly celebrates with teammates after scoring against Japan's Sanfrecce Hiroshima during their Club World Cup soccer match in Toyota, central Japan December 9, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)
Defending champions Ahly squandered two first-half penalty kicks but recovered to edge past Bani Suef Telephones 2-0 in Monday's match, regaining the top spot in Group A.
Ahmed Shedid Qenawy opened the scoring in the 20th minute and Sayed Hamdi recovered his scoring instinct following a series of sluggish finishes to secure a victory in the 60th minute.
It was a major boost for the Red Devils, who are now back to their winning ways after last week's slump against Smouha 1-0. They will now confidently head to the African Super Cup clash against the AC Leopards on 23 February.
The visitors were first to come in range of a goal when striker Mohamed Mohsen Abou-Gresha skipped defender Wael Gomaa, but his close-range effort hit the post.
Feeling the pressure in the opening 10 minutes, Ahly players raised their game in hopes of extending their domination of the field.
Mohamed Barakat had a clear chance to score from inside the area, but keeper Ali Farag deflected the ball into the corner.
Two minutes later, Abdallah El-Said volleyed a cross from Al-Sayed Hamdi, but the shot went over the bar before hitting the side netting from a free kick.
Ahmed Shedid broke the deadlock in the 20th minute, as his swerving cross from the free kick fooled the defender and keeper and went into the nets.
Hamdi, who has shown lethargy recently in front of the goal, could have doubled the lead four minutes later when he was sent clear by Ahmed Abdel-Zaher – but his poor effort was denied by the keeper.
Ahly then ensured its place in the hall of infamy after its players missed two penalty kicks within the next few minutes.
Right winger Mohamed Barakat was awarded a penalty kick after being tackled by Abdallah Ragab in the area, but skipper Wael Gomaa missed the target in the 27th minute.
Eight minutes later, referee Mahmoud Ashour whistled another penalty on Osama Azab, who denied El-Said's free kick with his hand. The latter stepped up to the spot kick, but Farag made another brilliant save to keep his team's chances at the break.
The visitors came back from the interval more confident and determined. As in the first half, Abou-Gresha posed the first threat with a splendid scissor kick, forcing Sherik Ekramy to make an excellent save.
After surviving the early scare, Ahly doubled their lead when Hamdi opened his scoring account this season by picking up Abdel-Zaher's rebound at the hour mark.
The goal was a major contribution from midfielder Shehab Eddine Ahmed, who made a darting run before assisting Abdel-Zaher, who delivered a powerful shot.
The goal came as a major blow for the visitors, who seemed to be a whisker away from the equaliser. They couldn't maintain their pressure, however, especially with the hosts more vigilant at the back after coach Hossam El-Badry switched to a more conservative 4-3-3 formation.
He closed his gaps in defence to claim the full points of the game and bounce back on top of Group A with nine points – five ahead of Bani Suef Telephones, who are now in sixth place with four points.
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