A second-half goal from Mohamed Barakat earned Ahly a 1-0 win over Zambia’s ZESCO United and a place in the CAF Champions League group stage on Sunday.
The veteran midfielder broke down ZESCO’s resistance six minutes past the hour mark to allay the worries of the enthusiastic home fans after Ahly struggled to create goal-scoring opportunities in a dour affair.
The match was halted for around five minutes in the second half after Ahly’s supporters lit several fireworks. ZESCO’s Billy Mwanza was taken to hospital after an object thrown from the stands struck his arm.
The Red Devils booked a place in the eight-team group stage with a 1-0 aggregate victory after the first leg ended goalless in Zambia.
They eye a record-extending seventh Champions League title and the first since their 2008 triumph.
Chances were few and far between as Ahly coach Manuel Jose surprisingly opted for a cautious strategy, introducing three holding midfielders in the team’s starting line up.
Strikes Osama Hosny and Mohamed Nagy ‘Gedo’ struggled to trouble the visiting defense, prompting Jose to react swiftly and introduce Barakat few minutes before the break.
The former Egyptian international unsettled ZESCO’s backline with his pace and managed to notch the decisive goal on 66 minutes.
A neat exchange of passes with central defender Wael Gomaa released him and he made no mistake with a precise right-foot shot from inside the area.
Ahly had three penalty claims turned down by the referee and were unlucky not to double their advantage when a shot by substitute Dominique Da Silva of Mauritania was denied by the post.
ZESCO briefly threatened Ahly but could not find the net as last year’s semi-finalists reached the group stage of Africa’s premier club competition.