Hatem Maher ,
March 25, 2015
Ahly avenged their stunning defeat at the hands of Ragaa last October when a late header from Ethiopian striker Saladin Said gave them a narrow and unconvincing 1-0 win over their lowly opponents as they resumed Egyptian Premier League action on Tuesday.
Said, who replaced ineffective attacking midfielder Moemen Zakareya on 76 minutes, scored only his second goal since his summer arrival to give Ahly all three points as they remained nine points behind leaders Zamalek, who played a game more.
Ahly, who have 39 points, narrowed the gap with second-placed ENPPI to four points after the latter were held to a 0-0 draw by Ittihad of Alexandria on Monday.
An own goal from Amr Nabil early in the game following a fine effort from Ahly’s new Nigerian striker Peter Ebimobowei put the defending champions in front but Amir Qaisar converted a highly-controversial penalty nine minutes before the break to draw Ragaa level.
The Premier League kick-started this week after it was suspended on 8 February following a Cairo football disaster that left 20 Zamalek fans dead at the army-owned Air Defence Stadium.
All matches are being played in daylight behind closed doors.
Ahly were well aware of the danger posed by Ragaa after the unfancied side, who are based in Marsa Matrouh near the Libyan border, famously beat them 2-1 in October with a last-gasp goal.
Lively striker Ebimobowei, who joined Ahly in January and netted his maiden goal in last month’s 3-1 win over Ittihad El-Shorta before the league’s stoppage, helped give the hosts the lead after 11 minutes.
He broke clear after a neat pass from in-form left-back Hussein El-Sayed and lobbed the keeper from an acute angle. Ragaa defender Nabil tried to claw the ball away but hit the underside of the bar with an acrobatic effort before the ball crossed the goal-line.
Ebimobowei was unlucky not to double Ahly’s advantage four minutes later when his header following a free-kick struck the bar but the Red Devils remained largely toothless despite their early dominance, allowing Ragaa to gradually get back into the game.
Ragaa were awarded the dubious penalty on 34 minutes when Emmanuel Adewole fell under an apparent challenge by goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy as he attempted to latch onto a through pass. Television replays showed that there was no contact between Ekramy and the Nigerian-born forward.
Qaisar stepped up to send Ekramy the wrong way and restore parity but the Egyptian international keeper was on alert to prevent Ragaa from going ahead before the interval when he produced a superb one-handed save to thwart Adewole in a one-on-one situation as Ahly’s shaky defence was repeatedly exposed.
Ahly coach Juan Garrido introduced Egyptian internationals Walid Soliman and Mahmoud Trezeguet in the second half to inject zeal but his side still struggled to carve out openings.
Trezeguet, who scored a superb goal in Egypt’s 2-0 friendly win over Equatorial Guinea last Thursday, was a peripheral figure while Soliman mustered one effort when he cut inside his marker and fired a curling shot that went over the crossbar.
It was fellow substitute Said who came to Ahly’s rescue with six minutes remaining when he headed home from close range following a corner, with Ragaa’s keeper rooted to the goal-line.
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