Al Ahly, the reigning CAFCL champions, kicked off their Champions League title defense in style with a comfortable 3-0 triumph against Ethiopia’s Saint George in the Round of 32 opener of the competition.
Hussein El-Shahat emerged as the match’s hero by finding the back of the net twice, first in the 29th minute and then again in the 58th minute, while Ahmed Abdel-Kader sealed the deal with a late third goal in injury time.
The game unfolded in Cairo, as per the Ethiopian team’s request to host both legs in Egypt.
The Red Devils had two early opportunities to take the lead, with Hussein El-Shahat’s deflected shot narrowly missing the target and Mahmoud Kahraba’s close-range attempt sailing over the crossbar.
In the 29th minute, El-Shahat beautifully broke the deadlock with a splendidly curled shot that beat the goalkeeper and nestled into the back of the net.
Defender Mohamed Abdel-Moneam had a golden opportunity to double the lead just before halftime, but his close-range attempt missed the mark.
The beginning of the second half witnessed Ahly coming close to widening their lead, as Rami Rabie’s shot struck the crossbar and Emam Ashour’s effort ricocheted off the post.
Striker Mahmoud ‘Kahraba’ had a straightforward chance to score, but his finish fell short.
Nonetheless, in the 58th minute, El-Shahat struck again with a precisely placed shot from outside the area, completing his brace and notching Ahly’s second goal of the match.
With 25 minutes left on the clock, Ahly’s coach Marcel Koller introduced substitutions, bringing in Mohamed ‘Afsha’ Magdi, Salah Mohsen, and Tunisian winger Mohamed Dhaoui in place of Emam Ashour, Mahmoud ‘Kahraba’ Abdel-Moneam, and Hussein El-Shahat, respectively.
A few minutes later, the Swiss coach opted for a double substitution, bringing in Ahmed Abdel-Kader and Ahmed Nabil while Percy Tau and Marwan Atteya made way.
Although they created numerous scoring opportunities, Ahly could only find the back of the net once, courtesy of Ahmed Abdel-Kader’s solo effort in the 90+4th minute.
With the second leg scheduled to take place in Cairo on Friday, Ahly appears to have effectively secured their spot in the Champions League group stage.