Ahly claim narrow win over Bizertin to go through in Champions League

Hatem Maher, Sunday 5 May 2013

Mohamed Barakat scores a goal and create another to help holders Ahly to a 2-1victory over Tunisia's Bizertin that lifts them to the African Champions League group stage

Ahly 2-1 Bizertin
Ahly's Mohamed Barakat scored and dished out an assist as Ahly beat Bizertin 2-1 (photo: Ahram)

Ahly continued their bid for a second successive African Champions League triumph after a 2-1 home win over Tunisia's Bizertin lifted them to the competition's group stage on Sunday.

Veteran midfielder Mohamed Barakat converted a penalty early in the second half and set up striker Emad Meteb for the second as Ahly went through 2-1 on aggregate after the first leg ended goalless in Tunisia.

Bizertin pulled one back via a penalty from Nour Hadhria five minutes past the hour mark and mounted late pressure in a bid to notch up a decisive goal but Ahly held out to book their place in the eight-team group stage.

The visitors finished with ten men after Mohamed Ali M'hadhbi was sent off one minute from time for a second bookable offence.

The match was played at Cairo's Air Defence Stadium behind closed doors after the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) imposed an indefinite crowd ban in the wake of recent fan troubles.

Ahly joined arch-rivals Zamalek in the last eight after the latter overcame Ethiopia's Saint George on the away goal rule following a 3-3 aggregate draw earlier in the day.

The quarter-final draw will be held in Cairo on Tuesday.

Unfamiliar formation

Ahly played with an unfamiliar 3-5-2 formation as coach Hossam El-Badry, whose future with the club remains uncertain, sought to make up for the absence of several defenders through injury, including Rami Rabiea and Sherif Abdel-Fadil.

The hosts made a slow start but managed to create their first chance midway through the first half when striker Ahmed Abdel-Zaher forced a superb save from Bizertin keeper Farouk Ben Mustapha with a first-time effort.

Veteran left-back Sayed Moawad was Ahly's liveliest performer in the first half, thanks to his darting runs and pinpoint crosses, many of which went begging.

El-Badry was forced to make an unscripted substitution early in the second half after defender Mohamed Naguib picked up an injury, striking another blow to an already depleted backline. He made way for winger Ahmed Shokry as Ahly restored their traditional 4-4-2 strategy.

They broke the resistance of Bizertin two minutes into the second half after Meteb was felled by defender Hamza Mathlouthi as the referee instantly pointed to the spot, sparking a furious reaction from Tunisian coach Mondher Kebair who was consequently ordered from the touchline.

Barakat stepped up to send the keeper the wrong way and put Ahly in front.

He was the architect of Ahly's second goal, making a bursting run down the right before crossing for Meteb to head home at the far post on 62 minutes.

However, Ahly's gaps at the back were repeatedly exposed by Bizertin, who narrowed the gap three minutes later when they were awarded a penalty after defender Saad Samir clumsily struck the body of an opponent with his head.

Hadhria stroked the ball into the top corner of the net to give Bizertin a lifeline. The Tunisians piled on pressure and Ahly needed a goal-line clearance from defender Wael Gomaa to keep their lead intact.

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