Al Ahly rewrote African football's record books today by winning an unprecedented sixth CAF Champions League title. The Egyptian giants' 2-2 draw at Coton Sport completed a 4-2 aggregate victory in the continental final; a result which ensured they will compete at the FIFA Club World Cup for the third time in four years.
However, despite taking a two-goal cushion into the second leg and scoring first on a thrilling afternoon at the Stade Omnisports Roumde Adjia in Garoua, Al Ahly breathed a sigh of relief that they did not become victims to one of the biggest turnarounds in the history of the competition.
Coton Sport took fighting spirit and attacking intent into the game, and ran their visitors ragged from the outset. But after their opponents had spurned some great chances, Ahly took the lead against the run of play.
It was a sublime goal from Ahmed Hassan in the 38th minute that extended the aggregate lead. The Egypt captain, in his first final after a decade in Europe, netted a cheeky goal with the outside of his boot following a corner.
Ordinarily, a three-goal deficit would have been cause for the losing side to give up, but it only served to galvanise the Cameroonians. And they finally, and deservedly, breached the Red Devils on the stroke of half-time, when Karim Abdoul lashed the ball home after a good work from Kamilou Daouda.
Coton Sport picked up where the left off after the interval, creating chances but lacking composure in front of goal. One goalline clearance from Wael Gomaa and some impressive goalkeeping from Ahly's Amir Abdelhamid also denied them.
A breakthrough arrived in the 61st minute, however, when Karim's free-kick was knocked in from close range by Ousmaila Baba. Coton Sport looked as if they had the energy to get the two more goals they needed to seize the trophy, but Baba squandered more chances and Daouda's header was weak when he had the goal at his mercy.
Ahly hung on for as long as they could and, in stoppage time, were awarded a penalty when substitute Andre Ndame Ndame brought down Mohamed Barakat. Captain Shady Mohamed made no mistake from 12 yards, and the final whistle soon sounded.
It was only then that Al Ahly could relax and savour their triumph, and look forward to challenging the world's elite next month at Japan 2008.