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Al Ahly get off to winning start in quest for league title defense

Al Ahly get off to winning start in quest for league title defense

Defending champions Al Ahly got off to a flying start in their opening Egyptian Premier League game after beating Maqassa 3-1 in Cairo on Sunday.

Tunisian left-back Ali Maaloul converted an early penalty to put Ahly in front but Marwan Hamdi brought Maqassa level four minutes before the break via a fortuitous goal.

Ahly wasted a cluster of easy chances in a second half which they totally dominated as Maqassa’s porous backline left them exposed to a wave after wave of attacks.

Winger Mahmoud Kahraba missed a sitter on two occasions but made amends to restore Ahly’s advantage on 65 minutes before midfielder Amr El-Sulaya ensured the win with a late volley.

Ahly, who are eyeing a sixth consecutive league triumph, moved level on three points with Zamalek, Aswan, Ittihad of Alexandria and Ceramica Cleopatra, who all grabbed opening wins.

Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane left off-form striker Marwan Mohsen out of the match squad and fielded Mohamed Sherif, who scored 14 goals while on loan at Enppi last season in a deep forward role, as his lone striker.

The Red Devils needed five minutes to open the scoring following a mistake from Maqassa keeper Mahmoud Hamdi, who palmed an innocuous low shot from Sherif before tripping Kahraba as the winger tried to bury the ball home on the rebound.

Spot-kick specialist Maaloul sent Hamdi the wrong way to give Ahly an early lead, with the hosts looking capable of doubling their advantage as Maqassa threw men forward and relied on an offside trap that could have easily backfired.

However, Ahly failed to make the most of the gaps Maqassa left at the back and were punished on 41 minutes when a corner struck the shoulder of Marwan Hamdi as he attempted a header and nestled into the far corner of the net.

Ahly sliced open Maqassa’s defence at will in the second period, with Sherif having a goal disallowed for a marginal offside following a VAR review and Kahraba going close with two efforts, back-heeling a mis-hit shot just wide and striking the outside of the post following a low cross.

He finally scored with a composed low shot into the far bottom corner after playmaker Magdi Afsha superbly chested down a floated cross in the area and laid the ball off to him.

El-Sulaya was picked out unmarked to volley in off the underside of the crossbar three minutes from time as Ahly claimed a deserved win.

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