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Kahraba Stars as Ahly Eye African Title After Surviving Scare

Egyptian giants Al Ahly will hope for more goals from Mahmoud Kahraba as they chase a record-extending 11th CAF Champions League title having survived a huge group-stage scare.

Ahly host three-time title winners Raja Casablanca this weekend in the most attractive quarter-final pairing, with the return match in Morocco seven days later.

But in mid March it seemed Kahraba and his teammates would be following the knockout stage of the premier African club competition on TV rather than participating.

The Cairo Red Devils were five points adrift of the second and last qualifying place in Group B, and there were only two rounds remaining.

But four goals from Kahraba helped Ahly to convincing victories over Coton Sport of Cameroon and Al Hilal of Sudan and second place behind Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa.

Hussein el Shahat was another Egyptian to pack a goalmouth punch, scoring twice against Hilal, who missed a penalty in the previous round against Sundowns that would have eliminated Ahly.

Winners of 23 CAF titles in four competitions, Ahly thrived against Hilal partly due to the backing from 50,000 of the most fanatical football supporters in Africa.

Egyptian authorities, who often restrict crowds to 10,000 or less for security reasons, have agreed to a 52,000 crowd for the visit of Raja and the tickets were quickly sold out.

While Ahly had an unexpectedly tough passage to the round of eight, Raja cruised through their mini-league, winning five matches, drawing the other, scoring 17 goals and conceding three.

Though vastly superior to Simba of Tanzania, Horoya of Guinea and Vipers of Uganda, the Moroccans did not face as strong a level of opposition as Ahly.

– Multi Raja threats –

What Raja do possess, under Tunisian coach Mondher Kebaier, is many potential scorers with 12, led by five-goal Hamza Khabba, finding the net in the African campaign.

Ahly and Raja also clashed in the quarter-finals last season with the Cairo club winning 2-1 at home and drawing 1-1 away to progress.

However, they failed to add to 10 Champions League titles, losing 2-0 to another Casablanca club, Wydad, in a single-match final marred by a venue controversy.

CAF chose the home ground of Wydad, infuriating Ahly, who appealed unsuccessfully to the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) for a change of venue.

It was the second final between the clubs in the past six seasons — Wydad also triumphed in 2017 — and they could meet again in the upcoming title decider.

Should Ahly overcome Raja, they will meet four-time champions Esperance of Tunisia or two-time title winners JS Kabylie of Algeria in the semi-finals.

Esperance have struggled to score, managing just six goals in six group matches, and Mohamed Ali Ben Hammouda, with three, is the only player to net more than once.

Kabylie have also averaged a goal a game, in 10 qualifying and group games, with two from Dadi Mouaki making him the leading scorer.

Wydad should be too strong for Simba and that would take them to a last-four showdown with Chabab Belouizdad of Algeria, quarter-finalists for the third straight season, or Sundowns.

Before this season, Sundowns reached the last-eight stage five times since being crowned champions in 2016, but have gone further only once, and Wydad are their bogey team.

Source: dailymail