Pitso Mosimane produced a tactical masterpiece in Al Ahly’s 0-1 first leg road victory over Espérance on Saturday with the Egyptian side constantly frustrating attacks while maintaining a threat on the counter. Mohamed Sherif’s 67th minute goal was the difference and now Al Ahly bring home a valuable away goal for the second leg in Cairo. The match was delayed by fan disruption leading up to the match, resulting in tear gas being fired into the crowd by police, but Ahly did well to navigate the distractions off the pitch.
The first half was rather uneventful as Ahly kept their defense fortified while looking to breakthrough via counter-attacks. Espérance attempted to attack Ahly’s right flank, where Akram Tawfik was deputizing as an emergency right back due to injuries in the squad, but Tawfik did quite well to keep left winger Hamdou Elhouni from making too much of an impact. It was the visitors who had the first opportunity of the match when a quickly taken 17th minute free kick found forward Mohamed Sherif with room to operate. Sherif cut in and had a shot from a tight angle, but Espérance keeper Moez Ben Cherifa kept the shot out.
Espérance’s best chance in the opening period came when Mohamed Ben Romdhane had room in the Ahly penalty area following his reception of an excellent 34th minute lofted ball. However, the talented young Tunisian international was unable to dribble his way around Ahly keeper Mohamed El Shenawy, who did well to reach out a glove and tip the ball away and to his supporting defenders.
The match picked up after the halftime break with both teams increasing their attacking urgency. Espérance could not find gaps in the Ahly defense, however, and it was the visitors who continued to dictate the proceedings. The first warning sign came in the 61st minute when a corner kick was well flicked on by Hamdi Fathi, but Sherif could only direct his header right at Ben Cherifa from close range.
Ahly got their deserved reward in the 67th minute. Malian midfielder Aliou Dieng burst forward and timed his through ball perfectly to send Sherif through on goal and this time the Egyptian international made no mistake, shooting past Ben Cherifa and off the post but following up to tap into an empty net. Sherfi could have extended the lead eight minutes later but he just missed a cross from left back Ali Maâloul that surely would have been the second if he had gotten a head to it.
Espérance’s hapless attacking performance failed to provide any particular threat to El Shenawy’s goal and Ahly emerged victorious with a crucial road victory that will leave the Tunisian side searching for answers in the buildup to the second leg. Highlights from the match are below.