A snapshot from Ahly's game away to Congolese side AC Leopards earlier this month
Title holders Ahly took a giant stride towards securing a place in the African Champions League semis after two goals either side of the interval gave them a 2-1 home win over Congo’s AC Leopards on Saturday.
Abdallah El-Saied opened the scoring eight minutes before the break and Walid Soliman doubled the lead in the second half with a sublime curler as Ahly grabbed their second consecutive Group A win after beating Leopards 1-0 in Congo earlier this month.
Leopards narrowed the gap through a 84th-minute goal from Sidoine Beaullia but it proved to be merely a consolation as Ahly held on for a precious win.
The Red Devils, who are chasing a record-extending eighth Champions League triumph, are second in the group with seven points, three clear of Leopards with two matches remaining.
Leaders Orlando Pirates of South Africa, who also have seven points, take on Ahly’s compatriots Zamalek (one point) in the other group game on Sunday.
Egyptian authorities initially planned to stage the game behind closed doors due to lingering security concerns but Ahly’s hardcore fans (Ultras Ahlawy) pressured them into reversing their decision.
They might have regretted lifting the crowd ban when fan disturbances forced a 25-minute delay of kick-off after a fight reportedly erupted between sections of the fans at El-Gouna Stadium in a Red Sea resort.
Reporter of Qatari sports channel Al-Jazeera said some fans hurled stones and bottles at each other few minutes before the scheduled 14:00 GMT kick-off.
Live footage showed ambulances carrying some injured fans.
Ahly outplayed the visitors in a first-half they totally dominated, with some flowing passing moves involving attacking midfielders Abdallah El-Saied, Walid Soliman and Mohamed Abou-Treika unsettling Leopards backline.
The unmarked Abou-Treika had a low shot that just went wide after 11 minutes and an angled effort that missed the target after the Leopards keeper was caught off position.
The shot-stopper was also on alert to tip over a powerful long-range shot in the 28th minute but he was powerless to stop El-Saied from scoring a deserved opener nine minutes later.
The left winger neatly controlled a long ball, cut inside Ulrich Mombo and sent a right-footed shot that bounced off the turf and beyond the keeper.
Despite being on the back foot for much of the game, Leopards could have restored parity four minutes before the break when they were awarded a penalty after Ahly’s Hossam Ashour made a clumsy tackle on Ntela Kalema who was surging freely towards goal.
Mombo stepped up but his shot was superbly palmed away by Ahly keeper Sherif Ekramy, who appeared to have infringed rules after moving off the line before Mombo kicked the ball.
Slew of chances
Ahly, who continued from where they left off in the first half, wasted a slew of chances that would have put the result beyond doubt in the second period, including an effort from Abou-Treika.
The overlapping playmaker collected a deft pass from El-Saied to break clear before rounding the keeper but his angled shot hit the side netting with the goal gaping.
Soliman made amends eight minutes past the hour mark with a delightful curling shot from just inside the area that went into the top corner of the net.
Leopards piled on pressure in the latter stages and grabbed a lifeline when a failed defensive clearance looped over the static backline and found Beaullia, who made no mistake with a close-range shot.
The Congolese side also squandered a clear-cut opportunity deep into stoppage time, to the relief of Ahly who moved a step closer towards a last-four place.
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