NAIROBI, Kenya, March 16- In the end, it was what might have been as a brace from veteran Egypt national, Emad Moteab helped Cairo giants Al Ahly seize control of their CAF Champions League first round tie against Tusker with a 2-1 win in Nairobi on Saturday.
Sending what was labelled a weakened side for their first leg at Nyayo National Stadium, Moteab struck in the 48th and 58th minutes of the second half as Tusker’s defense went walkabout before a goal from Jesee Were two minutes after they conceded the second gave the Kenyan league champions hope.
“We lost concentration in the second half and we paid for it. I’m happy with my team’s performance but Al Ahly are used to these kind of high profile games while for some of my players, it was their first time to play in such a game.
“I know what to do for the second leg and we will go there and play to win. We proved that we can score against them and this is not the tough team we expected so we have a chance if we work on the defense and finishing,” Tusker coach, Robert Matano said post-match.
His captain, Joseph Shikokoti added that playing against the record seven time African club champions and titleholders proved to be a test to daunting for some of the players who nonetheless turned a healthy shift but ultimately paid for profligacy in front of goal in addition to those two lapses.
“I had told my players that we needed to keep concentration for the whole game and the first 20 minutes would be important. Unfortunately, we went missing for their two goals in the second half and when we scored, we missed the chance to at least draw,” the towering skipper assessed.
With Ahly’s travelling support creating a bigger din than their hosts, including their Ultras who unfurled a banner honouring the 74 fans of the Cairo giants who were slain in a game against Al Masri last year, the Champions League titleholders did little to advance their feared reputation.
From kick-off, the domestic league champions forced play, winning their first corner seconds after kick off and in the 20th minute, Luke Ochieng missed a glaring chance to open the scoring when he brazed over from another delivery from another set-piece delivery.
Were came even closer five minutes later when his instinctive touch from a long throw in from Ochieng was brilliantly tipped behind for a corner by Sherif Ekrami in the Ahly goal. From the resultant delivery, captain Shikokoti failed to stub the ball home after it landed on his feet following confusion in the Egyptian side’s box.
The first half drew to a close with Ismael Dunga who had been preferred upfront among the Tusker attackers who failed to capitalise on the five scoring chances they carved out against a surprisingly lacklustre Ahly.
Boniface Oluoch who had been virtually a spectator in the proceedings was beaten three minutes after the break when his doubtful handling let in Moteab and the Pharaoh did no mistake, nutmegging him for the opener.
Matano withdrew Dunga and brought on exciting teenage prospect Michael Orunga as the Egyptian giants found wind on their sails with a number of raids on Tusker’s backline.
A sweeping move on the break from Ahly sent their fans into jubilation when Moteab rose to convert a pin-point cross from the right for his brace. Two minutes later, Were slotted home as stung Tusker sparked to life.
With the game petering out, Ahly’s Ultras lit flares from their section, filling the stadium in a plume of smoke but their joy was almost cut short when first Were and then almost at the death, Orunga blew two glorious opportunities to level the tie.
The referee indicated four minutes of added time and Ahly soaked up the remaining fight in Tusker to take a decisive lead to the second leg in Cairo in a fortnight.