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Ahly hold Setif to keep Champions League title defense alive

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Al Ahly players celebrate their goal
  • Mohamed Abdelmonem scored the vital equalizer
  • Ahly had a penalty saved once again
  • They will face off with ES Setif in the semis

Holders Al Ahly progressed to the semi-finals of the CAF Champions League with a 3-2 aggregate victory over Raja Club Athletic, following a 1-1 second leg draw in Casablanca on Friday night.

Ahly had to survive an onslaught from Raja in a full to capacity Mohamed V Complex in Casablanca, to progress to the semis where they will meet with Algeria’s ES Setif.

“It is not an easy place to come to. It was really difficult infront of 45,000 people to try and win. We cam here to win but you don’t win against Raja in Casablanca. They are a very good team and we tried our best to progress. That is what we wanted,” said Pitso Mosimane, the Al Ahly head coach.

He added; “When we conceded, they retreated a bit and gave us space. We managed to play our game because we love to play the ball on the ground and got a goal. We should have won it at the final minute but anyway, we have the result we wanted.”

Mohamed Abdelmonem scored the important equalizer just before the break, cancelling out Donald Ngoma’s early goal. Just like the first leg, Ahly had a penalty saved, this time Ali Maaloul seeing his spotkick kept out by Anas Zniti, who received glowing tribute from Mosimane.

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Ahly’s Ali Maaloul had a penalty saved

“He is an absolutely fantastic keeper. Saving two penalties in two legs is not easy. He knows how to play the mind games and he is also very good between the posts,” Mosimane said.

With a full to capacity stadium behind their backs, Raja had a dream start when Ngoma took them into a fifth minute lead when he headed home at the far post off an Abdelilah Madkour cross.

Ahly midfielder Aliou Dieng had been pickpocketed in a dangerous area, Ngoma playing it out to Madkour before running into the box to head home.

Dieng had an immediate opportunity to make amends when a cross from Taher Mohamed found him unmarked inside the box after the restart, but his header flew over.

The Egyptian giants had an even better chance to draw level after 17 minutes, but Maaloul saw his penalty saved by Anas Zniti. Ahly were awarded a spot-kick after VAR review when Mohsine Moutaouali was adjudged to have brought down Hussein El Shahaat inside the box.

Zniti however did well to parry away Maaloul’s spotkick, the second time he was saving a penalty after also doing so in the first leg.

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Action between Al Ahly and Raja Club Athletic

But Ahly kept their search for an equalizer with the game even and they were rewarded two minutes to the break when Abdelmonem leaped highest inside the box to head home a Maaloul corner. It was the first time that Raja were conceding at home in the Champions League this season.

In the second half, Ahly sought to wind down the game early and Percy Tau had a chance when he went round Zniti off a counter five minutes after the restart, but his eventual target at goal was weak and blocked.

From then on it was all Raja, the home side pushed on by the full to capacity stadium in hunt for a second goal. Moutaouali had a shot saved in the 64th minute as they mounted pressure.

In the 82nd minute, substitute Zakaria Habri came close for Raja when he fund some shooting space inside the box but his effort was finger-tipped over by Mohamed Elshenawy.

Ahly nearly nicked victory at the death off a counter when Mohamed Sherif clipped the ball towards goal. Mohamed Al Makaazi nearly scored into his own net in an attempt to cut off the ball but he recovered well to clear off the line.

On the other end, Mohamed Zrida came close to scoring in the fourth minute of added time but had an effort at point blank saved by Elshanawy.

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