Egyptian giants, Al Ahly played out an exciting 2-2 draw against Tanzania’s Simba SC in the first ever quarter final of the inaugural African Football League at the Benjamin Mkapa National stadium in Dar es Salaam on Friday.
Simba came back from a first half Rida Salim strike to nick in front of the Egyptians by 2-1 before inadvertently losing grounds on their lead after the hour mark.
A sold out Benjamin Mkapa National stadium witnessed a historic clash between the sides; the euphoric cheers and roars from the Tanzanian side was palpable during the game and more so at the opening ceremony as the Simba SC crowd were up for the occasion.
Former Brighton and Hove Albion forward Percy Tau nearly marred the glamorous event for the East African side. Tau was slid in on goal by Magdy Afsha but the former’s finish failed to hit the target in the 16th minute.
Kahraba missed a sitter a minute later when he failed to direct his side foot finish into Simba’s goal as Ahly spell danger with their attacks.
But that was the just beginning of what was yet to unfold in an exhilarating encounter. Al Ahly continued to dominate the game and broke the deadlock on the brink of half time; Mahmoud Kahraba who had been a torn in the flesh for Simba all night, raced through on goal before laying the ball off to Reda Slim who guided home his composed near post finish past an on rushing Ally Salim Juma to put Al Ahly 1-0 up at the break and silence the home crowd.
Simba came out of the traps after the interval, played eye catching football and earned a deserved equalizer 8 minutes later with Clatous Chama assisting Denis Kibu who finished with a point blank header to cause a revel amongst their spectators.
After portraying so much dominance and attacking prowess in the opening half, Al Ahly seemed to have been shellshocked by Simba’s surging in the beginning of the second half. One goal soon became two for Simba 6 minutes after their equalizer with Al Ahly once again conceding from a headed goal; substitute Sadio Kanoute maneuvered his way through bodies in the penalty box before rising highest to thump home Saidi Ntibazonkiza’s corner kick into the near post to cause raptures in the stadium and put the East Africa side 2-1 up on the night.
The Egyptians side kept probing and looking for a route back into the game and were arbitrarily gifted one when goalkeeper Ally Salim Juma of Simba SC palmed Al Ahly’s Yussif Ibrahim’s effort into the path of Kahbra who finished into a gaping goal to put his name on the scoresheet after his first half assist and was once again responsible for muting the home spectators.
The gut wrenching game was on a knife edge heading into the closing stages. Both teams were at fault for profligacy at both ends of the field; Simba hit the cross bar with a quarter of the game to go whiles Al Ahly missed clear cut chances.
Al Ahly substitute Mohamed Taher was afforded the room to race through on goal by Simba’s defense. However, Simba’s center back, Henoc Baka’s made up for the lost grounds and produced a superb recovery tackle to deny Taher and the Egyptians a late winner.
Henoc Baka’s timely heroic intervention was enough to see the spoils shared at the blast of full time leaving the game perfectly poised for the return leg which takes place in Cairo next weekend.
Story by: Andrews Sefa Bamfo | univers.ug.edu.gh