Tuzos too good for Al Ahly
© Foto-net

A remarkable fightback from Pachuca saw them come from two goals down to defeat Al Ahly at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo to set up a semi-final clash with Liga de Quito on Wednesday evening.

The Mexicans may have dominated the possession and looked the better side in the opening 45 minutes, but they found themselves 2-0 behind at the break, largely due to Al Ahly's fantastic ability on the counter attack. Prompted by the pace and quick thinking of Mohamed Aboutrika, Mohamed Barakat and Flavio, the Egyptians only two meaningful forays into their opponent's half bore fruit.

The opening goal came in the 28th minute when Aboutrika broke down the left hand side and put in a low cross looking for Flavio. Unfortunately for the Tuzos, the ball deflected off the leg of Fausto Pinto and past the wrong-footed Miguel Calero before crossing the line.

If their opener was a trifle fortunate, their second was a work of art. A long ball from the back was superbly controlled by Aboutrika who played the ball to Barakat. Rather than opting to shoot himself, he squared the ball to Flavio, who blasted it into the roof of the net to leave the Mexicans scratching their heads.

In truth, they only had themselves to blame, as four minutes before the opener was scored, Bruno Marioni had a great opportunity to put his side ahead. Receiving the ball inside the area from the lively Damian Alvarez, he fired into the legs of Amir Abdelhamid with the rest of the goal at his mercy.

The Pachuca players looked shaken as the walked off at half-time, but they were soon stirred into action, as some inspired changes from coach Enrique Meza put them back in the game. Off went the unfortunate Pinto and Jaime Correa and on came Juan Carlos Rojas and Luis Montes - and it was the latter who pulled one back within two minutes of the restart.

Ahmed El Sayed tripped Paul Aguilar on the edge of the box and from the resulting free kick, Montes hit a curling left footed shot which flew past Abdelhamid and into the net.

The substitutions had changed the game. It was Pachuca who had their tails up as they sought an equaliser and they came close when Christian Gimenez's shot whistled just wide of the post. Minutes later, Aguilar found Marioni in an excellent position inside the box, but dallied over his shot, the ball got stuck his feet and the danger was cleared.

Seventeen minutes from time, Pachuca were level. For the second time in the game, Al Ahly gave away a free-kick in a dangerous position and from the resulting set-piece Gimenez curled the ball beyond the wall and past the keeper to provoke scenes of joyous celebration.

It remained 2-2 until referee Ravshan Irmatov blew to signal the end of normal time - and in truth, when extra time began, there was only one side who looked likely to score - and that was Pachuca. A move started and finished by the lively Alvarez in the 98th minute ultimately decided the game and left Al Ahly, who boldly predicted a place in the final prior to the tournament, now facing the play-off for fifth place.

Gimenez's second of the afternoon in the 110th minute only served to pour salt in the wounds of Al Ahly who must now pick themselves up to face either Adelaide United or Gamba Osaka in Yokohama on Thursday.