CAF CL: Al Ahly hold Raja Club to progress to semis

Holders Al Ahly held their nerve to progress to the semi-finals of the TotalEnergies CAF Champions League with a 3-2 aggregate victory over Morocco’s Raja Club Athletic, following a 1-1 second leg draw in Casablanca on Friday night.

Mohamed Abdelmonem scored the vital goal for the Red Devils to level the return tie at the Mohamed V Stadium, a goal that proved most vital for the record African champions.

Defender Abdelmonem wiped the blushes off teammate Ali Maaloul who had missed an earlier penalty as Ahly remain on course for a third consecutive African title. They will take on Algeria’s ES Setif in the semi-finals, the latter having eliminated Esperance with a 1-0 aggregate score.

Heading to the return fixture in Casablanca, Raja needed in the least a 1-0 victory to force the game to penalties or a win of over two goals for outright qualification.

They had a dream start when Ngoma headed them into a fifth minute lead when he headed home at the far post off an Abdelilah Madkour cross.

Raja had won the ball off Aliou Dieng in a dangerous area, Ngoma playing it out to Madkour before running into the box to head home.

Dieng had an immediate opportunity to make amends when a cross from Taher Mohamed found him unmarked inside the box after the restart, but his header flew over.

The Egyptian giants had an even better chance to draw level after 17 minutes, but Maaloul saw his penalty saved by Anas Zniti.

Ahly were awarded a spot-kick after VAR review when Mohsine Moutaouali was adjudged to have brought down Hussein El Shahaat inside the box.

Zniti however did well to parry away Maaloul’s spotkick, the second time he was saving a penalty after also doing so in the first leg.

But Ahly kept their search for an equalizer with the game even and they were rewarded two minutes to the break when Abdelmonem leaped highest inside the box to head home a Maaloul corner.

It was the first time that Raja were conceding at home in the Champions League this season.

In the second half, Ahly sought to wind down the game early and Percy Tau had a chance when he went round Zniti off a counter five minutes after the restart, but his eventual target at goal was weak and blocked.

From then on it was all Raja, the home side pushed on by the full to capacity stadium in hunt for a second goal. Moutaouali had a shot saved in the 64th minute as they mounted pressure.

In the 82nd minute, substitute Zakaria Habri came close for Raja when he fund some shooting space inside the box but his effort was finger-tipped over by Mohamed Elshenawy.

Ahly nearly nicked victory at the death off a counter when Mohamed Sherif clipped the ball towards goal. Mohamed Al Makaazi nearly scored into his own net in an attempt to cut off the ball but he recovered well to clear off the line.

On the other end, Mohamed Zrida came close to scoring in the fourth minute of added time but had an effort at point blank saved by Elshanawy.

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