Egypt's Al Ahly reach CAF Champions League quarter-finals with victory over Sudan's Al-Hilal
Hassan El Shahat came off the bench to score and secure the final CAF Champions League quarter-finals place for title-holders Al Ahly of Egypt at the weekend.
He side-footed an Ahmed Abdel Kader cut-back into the net from close range on 71 minutes to ease the anxiety of the Cairo Red Devils coach, South Africa-born Pitso Mosimane.
Ahly began the match, which kicked off late on Sunday and finished just past midnight, needing a point to reach the knockout stages while Al-Hilal had to win to avoid elimination.
Home and away victories over Ahly enabled Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa to win Group A with 16 points, followed by Ahly (10) and Sudanese sides Hilal and Al Merrikh (four each).
Finishing second means record 10-time champions Ahly will be drawn against a group winner other than Sundowns in Cairo on Tuesday.
Raja Casablanca of Morocco won Group B, Esperance of Tunisia topped Group C and Wydad Casablanca came first in Group D.
Raja, Esperance and Wydad have won nine Champions League titles between them and whoever faces Ahly over two legs will be involved in a tie sure to trigger huge media attention.
Mosimane, the second most successful coach in CAF club competitions with six titles, is not concerned about finishing second in Group A.
"We won the last two editions of the Champions League despite finishing second in our group each time," the 57-year-old told reporters.
Ahly have not impressed lately as they strive to become the first club to win the Champions League three consecutive times.
Red Devils struggling
The Red Devils are struggling in the attacking third, managing only three goal attempts on target against Hilal in a match that kicked off late so players could observe the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
While footballers can get permission to break the daily dawn-to-dusk fast, most observe it and then eat and drink before matches.
While the Ahly attack is not functioning optimally, Wydad gave a lesson in clinical finishing to Angolan visitors Petro Luanda as they triumphed 5-1 in a clash of already-qualified sides.
"There's a young generation that has never seen Al Ahly and Zamalek compete in front of their supporters"https://t.co/rI1a8m3r4s— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) November 6, 2021
Petro resistance to a wave of red-shirted attackers lasted only 11 minutes, and by half-time it was 3-0 to the two-time African champions.
After a fourth Wydad goal, Portuguese Pedro Pinto pulled one back for the visitors before Libyan Muaid Ellafi completed the humiliation with an exquisite chip over Brazilian goalkeeper Wellington Lima.
The near-capacity crowd in the 65,000-seat Stade Mohammed V created an incredible atmosphere as they sang and clapped, while endlessly jumping up and down, with some waving huge flags.
Arch rivals Raja were much less spectacular 24 hours later, with a single goal from Marouane Hadhoudi earning a 1-0 win over Algerian visitors Entente Setif at the same ground.
Recent supporter misbehaviour condemned Esperance to playing in an empty stadium near Tunis, but they still defeated Algerian outfit Chabab Belouizdad 2-1 in a match to decide the Group C winners.