Al-Ahly triumph after long lay-off
Al-Ahly of Egypt bounced back after 54 days without a competitive match to defeat SuperSport United of South Africa 2-0 in an African Champions League second-round qualifier. The return match is scheduled for early April at Peter Mokaba Stadium, one of ten venues used by South Africa during their hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.
Long-serving Osama Hosny gave the 'Red Devils' a third-minute lead at the 75,000-seat Cairo Stadium and fellow striker Dominique da Silva struck the second goal six minutes before full-time.
Ahly have won the premier Pan-African club competition a record six times and are masters at defending a lead, which makes them favourites to reach the third and final qualifying round ahead of the lucrative group phase. SuperSport coach Gavin Hunt acknowledged before the match that his team were rank outsiders and they now appear doomed to a third consecutive exit at the two-leg knockout stage.
With football in Egypt shutdown since late January, Ahly played five friendlies at home and in Saudi Arabia and won them all. This gave a team lacking injured goalkeeper Sherif Ikramy and suspended midfielder Mohamed Barakat the confidence to attack SuperSport from the kick-off and they were soon rewarded.
Ahmed Fathy, one of many national team players in the Ahly line-up, latched onto a long, wide pass from former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Hossam Ghaly and crossed for unmarked Hosny to head home.
SuperSport struck the woodwork after a free-kick and midfielder Sayed Moawad squandered a good chance during a lively start to the first Champions League fixture of 15 to be staged around the continent over the weekend.
Mauritanian Da Silva could have increased the lead just before half-time when he found himself with only former South Africa goalkeeper Rowan Fernandez to beat but the chance was wasted. The visitors pressed for an equaliser after half-time with veteran defender Ricardo Katza heading into the side netting and a curling corner kick rebounding off a post.
Da Silva was a constant threat and Fernandez did well to block his fierce drive only for the recent signing from Tunisian club CS Sfaxien to make amends when another low shot found the net after Mohamed Shawky set him up.