Defending champions Al Ahly pit up a spirited performance, beating Raja Club Athletic 2-1 in an end to end CAF Champions League quarter-final first leg match at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo on Saturday night.
First half goals from Amr El Solia and Hussein El Shahaat gave Ahly an early advantage, with Mohamed Zrida halving the deficit for the visitors, but not enough to go the full length. Ahly would have won by a bigger margin, but had Amr El Solia miss a second half penalty.
The Red Devils had a perfect start, going ahead after 12 minutes courtesy of a VAR awarded penalty. Referee Jean Jacques Ndala visited the pitch-side monitor and Mohamed Al Makaazi was adjudged to have handled Ayman Ashraf’s cross.
EL Solia stepped up to score and give the defending champions a vital lead. Seven minutes later they should have been two goals up, but Mohamed Sherif’s header unmarked inside the box from a Percy Tau cross was saved by the keeper.
His blushes were wiped off though in the 23rd minute when EL Shahaat side footed the ball home from inside the box after Tau’s inch perfect cross found his run inside the box.
The home side which had started the game with so much pace almost made it 3-0 in the 35th minute when Ahmed Abdelkader took two of his markers for a dance but his final shot was deflected wide.
Tau also had a chance at goal in the 37th minute but his low shot from the right was saved by keeper Anas Zniti who had been kept busy most of the half.
Raja made changes before halftime, Ilias Haddad being hauled off for Fabrice Ngoma, a change to try and find some balance in midfield. It brought the much needed relief for Raja and they halved the deficit right at the break when Zrida finished off a cutback from Abdelilah Madkour.
In the second half, Raja came back pumped up with the goal, but found themselves on the receiving end on the hour mark when Marouane Hadhoudi was sent off for a foul inside the box. However, El Solia missed the eventual penalty.
Despite the reprieve, Raja were handicapped in numbers and Ahly just but managed to see off the result ahead of next weekend’s return tie in Casablanca.
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