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Al Ahly overcome early deficit and fierce crowd to draw and advance on aggregate past Raja CA in Casablanca

A dream start for Raja CA had them on the verge of advancing to the CAF Champions League semifinals but title holders Al Ahly held their nerve and found a crucial leveler to draw 1-1 and win 3-2 on aggregate. Mohamed Abdemonem’s header from a corner kick equalized for the super club and was enough to cancel out Fabrice Ngoma’s opener and hold off elimination in front of a wild crowd in Casablanca, moving Ahly on to the final four where they will face Algeria’s ES Sétif.

The Stade Mohammed V was packed to the gills with a sea of green with a fierce Raja fanbase doing all they can to boost the Green Eagles to victory and the CAFCL semifinals. Within five minutes they got their wish when the hosts opened the scoring to put Al Ahly on their heels.

A poor touch from Ahly midfielder Aliou Dieng allowed Mohamed Zrida to step in and win the ball before moving the ball out to an open Abdelilah Madkour on the right flank. The full back lofted a cross to the far post where Congolese midfielder Ngoma towered over everybody to nod his header past Ahly keeper Mohamed El Shenawy.

It seemed like Raja might be able to push on and extend their advantage but a frantic start gave way to Ahly finding their stride in the hostile atmosphere. At the end of the quarter hour mark Ahly attacker Hussein El Shahat was knocked over by Raja’s Mohsine Moutouali in the penalty area and a Video Assistant Referee review determined that a foul occurred for a penalty kick. However, Raja keeper Anas Zniti came up huge to deny Ali Maâloul’s spot kick before a desperate lunge from Zrida prevented Maâloul from knocking in the rebound.

Ahly never gave up and showed tremendous character to restrict Raja’s opportunities, delivering a crucial blow just before halftime. Maâloul stepped up to deliver a corner kick and whipped in his service to find Abdelmonem at the near post, whose header was clinical to beat Zniti and silence the deafening crowd.

Raja could never quite recover from the perfectly timed leveler. Ahly defended excellently and restricted opportunities, exposing a lack of attacking firepower in the Moroccan side. Percy Tau nearly put the tie away for the Egyptian club in the 51st minute but after getting around Zniti could not get his feet right and hit a weak shot that allowed the Raja keeper to get back.

The hosts could not carve out any clear opportunities even when throwing all players forward in the final stretch. A 77th minute cross from the left flank had both Ngoma and striker Hamid Ahadad throwing themselves at the ball but neither Raja player could get a touch. Ahadad was able to get on the end of Mohamed Nahiri’s 86th minute corner kick but his acrobatic volley was far off target and Ahly held out for the draw they needed to advance.

Highlights from the second leg are below.

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