World Class Player
Teams: Ahly (of Cairo) and Egypt
Enyimba 0-1 Ahly
Sunday July 10th 2005
ABA, Nigeria (GoPharaohs.com) - Serious CAF Champions League contenders Al Ahly handed the defending champions Enyimba their first loss in Nigeria in over two years on Sunday. Al Ahly’s lone goal came courtesy of Egypt’s national team striker Emad Motab early in the first half. Ahly played a generally well organized game and the result puts them in a very comfortable path towards the semi-finals of Africa’s most prestigious club competition.
Ahly kicked off the first half with El Hadary in goal, and El Sayed (Captain), El Nahas, and Gomaa in defense. In midfield, new Ghanian player Akwetey Mensah made his debut, playing along side Mohamed Shawky and Hassan Mustafa, while Barakat and Gilberto played on the right and the left, respectively. Up front, Emad Motab and Mohamed Abu Treka formed the Egyptian attacking duo.
Enyimba started out confident and pressured the Egyptian outfit for the first few minutes, coming close with a few shots early in the half. In the 9th minute, Ahly were shocked as a late tackle on Mensah left the Ghanian writhing in agony and suffering from an Anterior Cruciate Ligament tear that is to keep him out of action for at least 6 months. Mensah left the pitch and Ahmed Hassan came in as his replacement. Two minutes later, a swift backheel combination between the Egyptian league’s top marksman, Emad Motab, and the Egyptian league’s best player, Abu Treka, left the former in a one-on-one position with the Nigerian keeper. Motab found no trouble burying the ball to the right of the keeper, giving Ahly the lead early on in the game.
Enyimba struggled to regain dominance after Motab’s goal and came close on several occasions. However, poor finishing and a soaked pitch made the Nigerians’ task even tougher. Meanwhile, Mohamed Shawky earned a yellow card for a rough two-footed challenge and similarly Ahmed Hassan for diving in the box. Replays, however, suggested that Enyimba’s defender may have caught Hassan’s legs while making the clearance. After a few sporadic efforts from both teams, the referee whistled for the end of the first half with Ahly leading 0-1.
In the second half, Ahly decided to take a more conservative approach and relied heavily on counter-attacks. The Nigerians came out strong but ineffective passing around the Egyptian penalty area always ended in an easy clearance. Enyimba came close on several occasions, more specifically on the 72nd minute when a series of intricate passes around Ahly’s penalty box left El Hadary’s goal completely exposed. The Nigerian striker, who had an impossible angle, passed across the goal mouth but there was no follow up and Ahly’s defense managed to clear just in time. On another occasion, a clearly offside Enyimba striker received the ball deep inside the box and volleyed only for El Hadary to make an impossible diving clearance. In general, Emad El Nahas, Wael Gomaa, and El Hadary effectively and confidently guarded Ahly’s net, despite Enyimba’s building pressure.
In the last five minutes, Ahly had two clear chances that should have doubled the scoreline. In the first, Gilberto crossed from the left flank to Osama Hosny, who replaced Motab earlier in the second half, only for his strike to hit the keeper’s chest. Abu Treka’s follow up from ten yards out was then saved by a diving tackle. In the 90th minute, now from the right, a generally poor Barakat weaved through the Nigerian defense and passed to Abu Treka who was left unmarked in the box. Abu Treka’s strike rattled the crossbar and a shaken Nigerian defense cleared the ball off the line.
Ahly are on top of Group A with a maximum 6 points. Ajax Cape Town are in second position with two points, while Rajaa and Enyimba surprisingly lie in last with a point each. Ahly are the only team in the quarter-finals who have won any of their two games, and today’s confident performance sends a clear warning to the other seven teams.