CAF Champions League: Al Ahly Hold Sunshine In Ijebu Ode

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Bamidele Olowosagba/ Ijebu Ode

Nigeria’s club side, Sunshine Stars of Akure Saturday played a 3-3 draw with Egyptian giants, Al Ahly in the first leg of the CAF Champions League semi final match at the Dipo Dina International Stadium in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State.

Six times champions of Africa’s premier club competition, Al Ahly started the pulsating match on a bright note against a Gbenga Ogunbote tutored side, who are making their first run at this stage of championship.

It took the visiting Egyptians just 15 minutes to record their first goal through Mohammed Nagy Afash. The lone striker capitalised on lack of concentration from Sunshine Stars’ defensive duo of Iworie Valentine and Osawe, as he connected a quickly taken free-kick from the middle of the field and fired the ball pass goal keeper Ocheje Moses, who was in goal for the Nigerian team.

Before the home team realised what had hit them, Al Ahly got their second goal just 9 minutes later (24th minute) through their out side left winger, Mahdy El Sayed. The pacy-diminutive attacking player chipped the ball past on rushing Moses as the ball sailed into an empty net.

Sunshine Stars, buoyed by their home crowd, made their continued effort in search of a goal count in the 30th minute as they reduced the two goals margin through a brilliant goal from Tamen Medrano. The midfielder lobbed the ball pass Al Ahly’s goal keeper Sherif Ekramy after he got a return pass from his captain Moses James, who captained Sunshine due to the absence of their regular skipper, Godfrey Oboabona.

Coach Ogunbote’s first half double substitutes of Izu Azuka, who had a bad day, for Olorundare Dele, and Dayo Ojo for Ibrahim Ajani in search of second goal did not pay off as the first 45 minutes of the match ended 2-1in favour of Al Ahly.

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Expectedly, the second half started on a pulsating note with Sunshine Star continued to pile up pressure on the Egyptians defence for an equaliser. They finally the much expected equaliser in the 75th minute through Olorundare Dele. The lanky striker converted a penalty awarded to Sunshine after Ajani was fouled in the penalty box by Egyptian defender Mohammed Ghareeb.

Sunshine Stars fans’ celebration after the equaliser was short lived as Al Ahly scored their third goal in the 77th minute through Afash, the same player that got the first goal to make it a brace.

The home fans got another opportunity to celebrate in the 87th minute when Precious Osasco of Sunshine Stars curled the ball into the Egyptians net through a free kick some yards outside the box to make the scoreline 3-3.

Both teams’ efforts to score more goals did not yield a positive result as the center referee from South Africa Bennett Daniel blew the final whistle after expiration of 5 minutes added time.

The second leg of the match will be played under closed doors in two weeks time in Cairo, Egpyt.

Speaking after the match, Coach Ogunbote said: “I am not satisfied with our performance today but going by the four days preparation we had before this match, I would say it was a decent result but it’s not over yet.”