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Club World Cup: Finally nine for Al Ahly

Al Ahly players celebrate their victory in the CAF Champions League | Courtesy photo

Over the past three years, Al Ahly experienced disappointments that may have sunk lesser clubs.

The Egyptian giants saw the CAF Champions League title elude them at the final hurdle in successive seasons – first in 2017 when they were beaten 2-1 on aggregate by Wydad Casablanca.

And then in 2018, when they fell to a 3-0 defeat away to Esperance, having won the first leg 3-1 in Cairo.

Al Ahly’s campaign ended at the quarter-final stage in 2019 on the back of a 5-1 aggregate loss to Mamelodi Sundowns, but the Red Devils were not about to give up on their dreams of securing their ninth title.

Strong comeback

Undeterred by these setbacks, and despite all the disruption brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the tournament being delayed by several months prior to the semi-finals, Al Ahly kept their nerve and ultimately won a trophy that had eluded them since 2013.

The campaign

Al Ahly cruised into the group stage, dispatching Atlabara of South Sudan and Cano Sport of Equatorial Guinea before losing their first group game 1-0 away to Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia.

Home wins over Al Hilal of Sudan, 2-1, and 2-0 over Platinum of Zimbabwe were followed by a valuable point gained from a 1-1 draw in the return fixture in Zimbabwe.

The Red Devils then earned revenge over Etoile du Sahel via a 1-0 home win, before securing second place in the group and a place in the knockout stages via a 1-1 draw at Al Hilal.

In the quarter-finals, Al Ahly avenged their 2019 defeat to Mamelodi Sundowns by beating them 2-0 in Cairo before drawing 1-1 in Pretoria.

In the last four, the Red Devils thrashed Wydad Casablanca 5-1 on aggregate before defeating arch-rivals Zamalek 2-1 in a memorable final.

Amr El Soleya put the Red Devils ahead, Shikabala leveled it for Zamalek, before Mohamed ‘Afsha’ Magdy scored the late winner for Ahly.

What they said

“Along with the final, the quarter-final against Sundowns was the toughest challenge because we wanted to avenge last year’s defeat.”

“We won the final against Zamalek despite not playing as well as we did against Wydad in the semis. Mosimane knows Africa well and he made the Champions League title his main target,” Hussein El Shahat, Al Ahly forward.

“Zamalek were better in the final, and I wasn’t surprised when Shikabala scored the equaliser because they pressed hard. The opposite happened in the Egyptian Super Cup when we played better but Zamalek won,” Mohamed El Shenawy, Al Ahly goalkeeper.

Did you know?

Al Ahly have experienced highs and lows at the hands of Pitso Mosimane. The South African was in charge of Mamelodi Sundowns when they eliminated Al Ahly in 2019, but was appointed head coach of the Red Devils prior to the semi-finals in 2020.

Al Ahly claimed in a total of three titles in 2020. Along with the Champions League, they won their domestic league and the Egyptian Cup to complete a historic treble.

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