Al Ahly 3-0 Al-Merrikh | Match highlights

Al Ahly 3-0 Al-Merrikh | Match highlights

Titleholders Ahly kicked off their African Champions League group-stage campaign with a convincing 3-0 victory over Sudanese giants Al-Merrikh at Cairo Stadium on Tuesday.

Although Ahly could not open the scoring in the first half they completely dominated, they made amends in the second to send an early warning to their Group A competitors.

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Magdi Afsha headed home on 57 minutes and winger Mahmoud Kahraba made it 2-0 six minutes later after being teed up by a delightful pass from Nigerian forward Junior Ajayi.

Lively Congolese forward Walter Bwalya finally opened his Ahly account on his ninth appearance after joining in January to complete the route.

Ahly, who won the Champions League for a record-extending ninth time last season with a remarkable 2-1 victory over Cairo foes Zamalek, moved top of their group, on a level with Tanzania’s Simba, who beat Vita Club 1-0 last Friday.

The Red Devils missed several regulars through injuries but they were barely affected by the absences, pinning a helpless Merrikh side into their own half from the outset.

Merrikh lost Salah Nimer to injury in the first half after he made a timely sliding tackle to block a goal-bound shot from Afsha, who was the hero of Ahly’s Champions League triumph last season.

Afsha headed just wide with the goal at his mercy on six minutes after Walter Bwalya nodded the ball across the six-yard box.

On 27 minutes, Kahraba was thwarted by Merrikh keeper Monged El-Neel from close range after another headed pass from Bwalya, who five minutes later missed the target with a low deflected shot as Ahly mounted relentless pressure.

It was Amr El-Sulaya’s turn on 34 minutes as the holding midfielder fired just over the crossbar from the edge of the area.

Ajayi missed two chances in the early stages of the second half but Afsha finally broke the deadlock when he was picked out unmarked by a Mohamed Hani cross to send a free header in off El-Neel, who should have done better.

Kahraba doubled Ahly’s lead on 63 minutes with a composed finish after latching onto a superb defense-splitting pass from Ajayi, who looks in perfect shape after returning from a lengthy injury lay-off.

Bwalya ended the match as a contest in the 71st minute, firing home after breaking clear following a superb flick from El-Sulaya as Merreikh’s defence was left in tatters.

The visitors were still unlucky not to score at least a goal, with substitute Darren Mattocks thwarted by a brilliant double save from keeper Mohamed El-Shennawi and a header denied by the upright deep in stoppage time.

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