Ahly’s hopes of completing a domestic double were ended by Pyramids FC, who dumped the illustrious Cairo club out of the Egypt Cup for the second successive season with a 1-0 win in the round of 16 on Saturday.
In-form Burkinabe winger Eric Traore finished off a flowing three-man move to score what proved to be the winner ten minutes into the second period, with Ahly paying the price of failing to make their dominance count.
The Red Devils’ bid to restore parity was also not helped by the dismissal of central defender Ayman Ashraf, who earned a second yellow card for fouling Traore on 71 minutes as Pyramids looked close to adding a second after launching repeated breakaways.
Pyramids also eliminated Ahly from the Egypt Cup quarters with a similar 1-0 victory last season before defeating Africa’s most successful club twice in the Egyptian Premier League.
Ahly were crowned league champions for the fourth successive season last month but the Egypt Cup defeat will cast doubts over the future of Uruguayan coach Martin Lasarte, who remains unpopular with team’s fans due to a series of uninspiring displays.
Lasarte was given a vote of confidence by Ahly’s board following a stunning 5-0 drubbing at the hands of South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns in the African Champions League quarters in April.
Pyramids finished third in the league last season after spending big to bolster their squad and new coach Sebastien Desabre said recently he is keen on delivering a first ever title for the club, which changed hands last month after Emirati investor Salem Al-Shamsi bought it from Saudi Turki Al-Sheikh.
Although goal-scoring chances were scarce, Ahly had the better of the first half and were unlucky not to go ahead on 33 minutes when Walid Azaro, who is often criticised for his wastefulness, missed a sitter.
The Moroccan striker was found unmarked by a diagonal cross from playmaker Saleh Gomaa but poked the ball wide with his first touch with the goal at his mercy.
Winger Ramadan Sobhi also had a fine effort when he cut inside his marker and sent a right-foot shot that was palmed away by keeper Ahmed El-Shennawi.
At the other end, Pyramids could only create half-chances, including a curling free kick from ex-Ahly man Abdallah El-Said which narrowly missed the target.
Pyramids improved after the break, with some neat combinations between new recruit Lumala Abdu and Traore unsettling Ahly’s rearguard. They scored against the run of play from one such move in the 55thminute.
El-Said’s deft through pass released Abdu down the right and the Ugandan’s low cross found the unmarked Traore for a simple finish.
Ahly pressed hard for an equaliser despite Ashraf’s red card and they came close 10 minutes from time when Azaro’s goal-bound header was tipped over by keeper El-Mahdi Soliman, who replaced El-Shennawi after he was injured.