The Egyptian giants’ only resort was penalties to overcome Tanzania visitors Young Africans in Alexandria and book their place at the 1/8th round
Defender Sayed Moawad’s 72nd minute goal cancelled Yanga’s first leg 1-0 victory and the holders could add no further goals, forcing the tie to be decided via kicks from the spot.
Ahly goalie Sherif Ekramy emerged his side’s hero saving two kicks from Oscar Joshua and Said Bahanunzi, while Mbuyu Twite shot wide after Nadir Haroub, Didier Kavumbagu and Emmanuel Okwi scored the first three kicks for the Tanzanians.
Moawad and captain Hossam Ashour missed for Ahly, while Abdullah El Said, Mohamed “Gedo” Nagy, Mahmoud “Trezeguet” Hassan and Mohamed Naguib scored to give the ‘Red Devils’ a 4-3 victory on penalties after a 1-1 aggregate score.
“We should have won in regular time, but for our careless finishing”, said Ahly manager Mohamed Youssef after his charges qualification to the second round.
“It was a tough game, but we controlled the game thoroughly. Had the players been more careful in finishing, we could have scored a bigger margin win and qualified without the need for penalties.”
Youssef, who guided the Cairo giants to an unprecedented eight continental title last year reckoned it was no easy task over the Tanzanian champions.
“Most people thought Young Africans were going to be a walkover, that’s not true; they are a very good team. Every Champions League game is very difficult. We missed many chances but what count is we won and qualified.
“I’m not thinking of our next opponents at the next round now. We still have domestic league games to play first”, Youssef concluded.
His counterpart, Hans Van Der Pluijm blamed his side’s ill luck during the penalties for their failure to oust the eight-time winners.
“We were so close to qualification”, the Dutch tactician told Cafonline.com.
“We faced a different Ahly than the one I used to know. They’re not the terrifying team anymore. I commend my boys; they played well but were unlucky”, concluded the former coach of 2012 Ghana champions, Berekum Chelsea.
Ahly’s captain of the day, Ashour, may have missed his spot kick, but he still had a day to remember. The versatile midfielder celebrated his 28th birthday on the day that marked his 100th continental game with the club.
He told Cafonline.com “I’m happy we won. I’m sorry to see my penalty kick saved but the most important is we won and qualified. I’m proud to reach my centennial game with Al Ahly; this is a great way to celebrate my birthday”.
Goalkeeper Ekramy also reveled in his man-of-the-match performance at the game held behind closed-doors.
“Being the reason for my team’s victory is an amazing feeling”, Ahly’s shot stopper told Cafonline.com.
“I just did my role, as did all my teammates. We are used to these tough games, and the past two years are a very good example of that. Ahly’s players’ experience does the difference at the end of the day”, concluded Ekramy.
Ahly will now face fellow name bearers, Ahly Benghazi of Libya in the 1/8th round battle of neighbours.
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