Al-Ahly book date with Bucs
Al Ahly supporters (Gallo Images)
Cairo - Al-Ahly have restored some Egyptian football pride on Sunday by squeezing into the CAF Champions League final after a penalty shootout.
The Cairo 'Red Devils' won the spot-kick duel with Cameroonian visitors Coton Sport 7-6 in Red Sea resort El-Gouna after a 1-1 draw behind closed doors.
A 1-1 first leg draw in Garoua two weeks ago meant a 2-2 aggregate tie as the clubs sought a final showdown with South African side Orlando Pirates.
Needing to score to level the shootout, Jacques Haman blazed over and Ahly kept alive hopes of a record eighth Champions League title.
The outcome was a massive relief for Egypt after a national side packed with Ahly stars was humiliated 6-1 by Ghana in a World Cup play-off five days ago.
Ahly went ahead inside three minutes with a simple goal as Sayed Moawad crossed and Abdullah Al-Saied towered above two defenders to nod the ball wide of Luc Feudjou.
The home side 'owned' the ball in the first quarter of the game with timid Coton repeatedly running around trying to gain possession.
But it took Ahly until midway through the half before they threatened to score again with chances falling to Walid Soliman and Rami Rabiea in quick succession.
Unmarked Soliman hurried a shot that finished well off target and a looping Rabiea header off an Ahmed Fathy free-kick landed on top of the net.
Coton finally came alive during the 10 minutes before half-time and gave the record seven-time champions several scares.
Ewangue Mbongo got past a defender and goalkeeper and captain Sherif Ekramy used his legs to block a close-range shot.
Kingue Mpondo came even closer three minutes later, hitting the post after stretching to connect with a partially cleared cross.
After 35 largely idle minutes, Ekramy was suddenly the busiest footballer in El-Gouna and needed two attempts to hold a snap shot from teenager Alexis Kada.
Coton were on a roll and had appeals for a penalty rejected by the Mauritian referee, with television replays suggesting a collision between two players did not warrant a spot-kick.
The half-time whistle was a relief to the Cairo 'Red Devils', who were lucky to be one goal ahead on the day and on aggregate.
Coton continued to press as the second half progressed without creating any clearcut chances on a clear, hot afternoon in north-east Egypt.
But with 65 minutes gone the Cameroonians deservedly levelled when several Ahly defenders failed to cut off a low cross and Kada netted with with a close-range tap.
Pirates qualified on Saturday by drawing 1-1 with Esperance on the outskirts of Tunis to advance on the away-goal rule after a goalless first leg.
Rooi Mahamutsa put the Buccaneers ahead with a flying header off a corner on 52 minutes and Iheb Msakni swept home a low cross soon after.