Defending champions Al Ahly clinched the remaining quarter final slot in the TotalEnergies CAF Champions League after edging out Al Hilal by a solitary goal in Cairo on Sunday night.
Ahly and Hilal were battling for the only available last eight slot, with the other seven having already been decided in the penultimate round of group stage matches.
Hussein El Shahat stepped off the bench to score the winner for the Red Devils, though a draw would still have been enough to sail Pitso Mosimane’s side into the last eight.
The victory saw Ahly finish second in Group A with 10 points from three wins and a draw, six points behind group leaders Mamelodi Sundowns.
Hilal needed a win to shock the defending champions out, but were made to play behind their halfway line for most of the game. The opening half had chances, but none could breach into a goal.
In the second half, the tempo of the game picked up, and it was Hilal who had the first few golden chances. In the 70th minute, Eid Mugadam almost scored for Hilal off a counter, but his snap shot on the counter flew just over.
Centre back Mohamed Ouatara almost scored for the visitors with a header off a corner, but his effort went just over into the bar.
With the alarm sounds ringing on Ahly, they got their goal in the 73rd minute when Elshahat finished off inside the box after being picked out by a good pass from Ahmed Abdelkader on the left.
Ahly had two more chances, Elshahat failing to hit the back of the net with the keeper off his line after curling wide, while substitute Luis Miqquisone blasted a shot wide from the left just a minute after coming on.
But, they had done just enough to assure victory and a ticket to the next round
-Raja Club Athletic 1-0 ES Setif-
At the Mohamed V Stadium in Casablanca, Raja Club Athletic cemented their place on top of Group B with a 1-0 win over Algeria’s ES Setif, though both sides had already qualified to the quarter finals.
Marouane Hadhoudi scored the lone goal of the match, powering home a 74th minute header from a Mohamed Nahiri corner.
The home side had most of the chances, including a ninth minute penalty that was missed by Hamid Ahadad. They had more in the second half and the closest before the goal was in the 54th minute when Fabrice Ngoma’s thunderous strike from range came off the upright.
Raja finish the group phase with 15 points off five wins, their only blemish being a shock away loss to Guinean side Horoya. Setif are second with nine points from three wins.
Frederick Marfo is a sportswriter and social worker well known for his advocacy for equal chances and rights for all athletes, especially those with disabilities.