African Champions League: Cairo’s Al Ahly on brink of exit

Al Ahly of Egypt were held 2-2 at home by Zambia's Zesco United on Saturday, meaning they are now all but assured of missing the African Champions League semi-finals.

Hossam Ghaly, captain of Egypt's Al Ahly, reacts after Jesse Were of Zambia's Zesco United scored the team's second goal.  Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters / August 12, 2016
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Record eight-time African Champions League title-holders Al Ahly of Egypt are facing elimination from the 2016 competition after being held 2-2 at home by Zesco United of Zambia on Friday.

If Wydad Casablanca of Morocco defeat visiting Asec Mimosas of the Ivory Coast Sunday in Group A, they and Zesco will qualify for the semi-finals of the premier African club football competition.

Zesco have eight points, Wydad seven, Ahly five and Asec four in a mini-league where head-to-head records are the first tie-breaker.

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Needing maximum points to have a realistic chance of making the knockout stage, Ahly dominated territory and possession for much of the match in Alexandria.

But the Egyptian side battled to contain swift counterattacks by Zesco, who are seeking a first semi-finals appearance.

Gangling Kenyan Jesse Were took advantage of slack marking to nod the Zambian outfit into a sixth-minute lead at the 90,000-seat Borg El Arab Stadium.

Rami Rabia levelled on the half hour, poking the ball into the net from close range after the visitors failed to clear a corner.

But Were struck again five minutes later as clever one-touch passing carved open the Ahly defence, allowing him to fire the ball across goalkeeper Ahmed Adel into the far corner.

Ahly, whose eight Champions League triumphs came between 1982 and 2013, introduced veteran Emad Moteab during the second half for ineffective Amr Gamal.

And the 33-year-old striker, the sole link with the great Ahly teams of the previous decade, snatched an 85th-minute equaliser.

His penalty area bicycle kick deflected off Kenyan David Owino, leaving goalkeeper Jacob Banda stranded.

Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa have won Group B and are likely to be joined in the semi-finals by five-time African champions Zamalek, Ahly’s Cairo rivals.

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