SPORTS DESK : 3 APRIL, 2023, 1:40 AM
African giants Al Ahly of Egypt completed a great comeback in Group B by outplaying Al Hilal of Sudan 3-0 on Saturday to clinch a CAF Champions League quarter-finals place.
Mahmoud Kahraba put the Red Devils ahead 25 minutes into the final matchday showdown before a sell-out 50,000 crowd at the Cairo International Stadium.
Hussein el Shahat came off the bench in the second half to score twice and ensure record 10-time African champions Ahly reached the knockout stage for the seventh straight season.
Ahly began the match three points behind Hilal and had to win either 1-0 or by more than one goal to accompany already-qualified Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa to the last eight.
In the end they swept aside Hilal, who offered little in attack, but after four matchdays the outlook was grim for Ahly and their Swiss coach, Marcel Koller.
A 5-2 drubbing from Sundowns in Pretoria left them trailing Hilal by five points and staring a humiliating early exit from the premier African club competition.
Kahraba scored a hat-trick in a 4-0 matchday five win over Coton Sport in Cameroon, but a home win for Hilal over Sundowns the following day would have eliminated the Egyptian outfit.
With Hilal and Sundowns drawing 1-1 and just minutes left in Omdurman, the Sudanese were awarded a penalty, but Ronwen Williams saved a tame Ather el Tahir spot-kick and the points were shared.
The draw offered Ahly an escape route and they took full advantage to finish second on head-to-head records after a 1-0 away loss to Hilal two months ago.
The deadlock was broken when Kahraba brilliantly controlled a pass from Mohamed Abdelkader and lofted the ball into the net over 19-year-old Hilal goalkeeper Issa Fofana from the Ivory Coast.
Marwan Attia thought he had put Ahly two goals ahead 10 minutes into the second half, but his shot struck the post and Fofana scrambled the ball to safety under pressure from Kahraba.
The introduction of El Shahat swung the match decisively in favour of the home side as he scored on 64 and 81 minutes.
A brilliant pass from South African Percy Tau set up the second goal and El Shahat later cut inside and slammed the ball past Fofana to complete the scoring.
In Pretoria, Sundowns beat Coton 2-1 to finish four points above Ahly. Marie Mekong conceded an own-goal just before half-time and Ethiopian Abubeker Nassir added a late second. BSS
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