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Al Ahly 1-1 Berekum Chelsea: Egyptian champions remain undefeated
Match: Al Ahly 1-1 Berekum Chelsea (42’ Oussou Konan; 52’ Jordan Opuku)
Competition: CAFChampions League – Group B
Venue: Accra Sports Stadium, Accra, Ghana
Referee: Bouchaib El Ahrach (Morocco)
Al Ahly approached this encounter high on confidence after capturing a maximum of 9 points from their previous three matches. These victories included a stellar performance in Ghana against Berekum Chelsea, the consequence being that Ahly started the day topping the group. Due to the suspensions of Wael Gomaa & Hossam Ashour, together with the absence of Shehab Ahmed due to injury, Mahmoud ‘Trezeguet’ Hassan made is first competitive start for Al Ahly. The 19 year old prospect was not short of confidence, demonstrated through his composed skill with the ball at his feet. He completed 90 minutes alongside Hossam Ghaly in Ahly’s midfield, and offers a competent blend of Ghaly’s vision and Ashour’s resilience. El Badry employed his preferred 4-2-3-1, but with a slight tweak – Gedo and Walid Soliman playing as traditional wingers rather than inverted wingers.
Berekum Chelsea starting XI: Iddrisu Abubakari;Edward Kpodo, Alfred Arthur, Ahmed Adams, Samuel Kieri; Awudu Moro (AbdulBasit Mohamed, 57), Jackson Owusu, Solomon Asante, Jordan Opuku, Idan Bismark (Ibrahim Issaka, 77); Emmanuel Clottey.
Al Ahly starting XI: Sherif Ekramy; Sayed Moawad, Mohamed Naguib, Sherif Abdel-Fadil, Ahmed Fathi; Hossam Ghaly, Mahmoud ‘Trezeguet’ Hassan, Walid Soliman (Mohamed Barakat, 77), Mohamed Aboutreika, Gedo (Abdullah El Saeed, 72); Oussou Konan (Dominique Da Silva, 55)
Berekum Chelsea are known to be an attacking team, however doubts have been raised about their shaky defence. Perhaps caution betrayed a lack of confidence, as the Ghanaians began the match sitting deep and allowing Ahly to control the game – Chelsea coach Hans van der Pluijm acutely aware of the need to avoid defeat. Despite Ahly’s dominance, Ekramy needed to be on hand early on to deny Emmanuel Clottey, before being forced into action again on 21 minutes to intercept Idan Bismark’s effort – the forward finding space due to the poor positioning of Ahly’s defenders. Walid Soliman sought to reap the rewards of the Egyptians’ midfield dominance with a beautiful cross to Aboutreika on 42 minutes, and whilst the Smiling Assassin only managed to strike the post, Oussou Konan ghosted in to tap in the rebound. Ahly were a picture of composed control as the half played out, the three points firmly theirs to lose.
Seemingly invigorated, Berekum Chelsea sought to be proactive after the break – breaking up Ahly attacks and stifling the opposition when in possession. 6 minutes in, their determined approach was rewarded as an Edward Kpodo cross was met by Jordan Opuku. A mistimed jump from Sherif Abdel-Fadil allowed the former Feyenoord man to reduce arrears. Poor defensive positioning and composure in the face of high balls has become a staple of Egyptian sides in recent years, the Olympic team demonstrated their weaknesses in this department, and it is a trend continued by Ahly.
The equalizer changed the complexion of the game: buoyed by confidence and self-belief, Chelsea pushed on, whilst Ahly’s midfield shrank within themselves. The 55th minute brought substitutions from both sides, Dominique Da Silva replacing Oussou Konan for Ahly, and AbdulBasit Mohamed replacing Awudu Moro for the home side. AbdulBasit’s proved to be a shrewd introduction, and his incisive running, along with uncertainty in Ahly’s backline led to a flurry of chances – the best fell to Bismark, who should have done better with his chance. Jackson Owuso also set pulses racing with a free kick that hit the crossbar. Neither team were able to seal a winner, and a spurned late chance for Ahly, as Aboutreika’s peerless vision procured a one-on-one situation for Da Silva, meant that both sides reeled with regret on the final whistle.
A valuable away point doesn’t disguise the fact that this was two points lost for the African Club of the Century. El Badry may well need to accept some blame for Ahly’s failure to capitalize on their early dominance. Ahly’s midfield found themselves over-run in the second half, and despite being a raw talent making his first start in the competition, El Badry failed to replace Hassan as the going got tough. Barakat and El Saeed were encouraging introductions, but if truth be told, they probably arrived too late on the scene to make a genuine difference. Still, Red Convoy fans can look optimistically towards their continued presence in the Champions League.
King Fut’s Man of the Match:
No player provided a performance stellar enough to obviously claim the MOTM title. There were consistent displays on both sides, but no one excelled or caught the imagination. Jordan Opuko came closest however, and demonstrated his exceptional vision and composed passing as a central component of the Blues’ midfield. His resounding finish commends him for King Fut’s award.
Follow Mohamed Farouk on twitter.