Al Ahly’s hopes of a record-extending 11th CAF Champions League title hang in the balance after conceding a late goal in a 2-1 final, first-leg win over Wydad Casablanca on Sunday.
The Egyptians will face the Moroccans again, in Casablanca next Sunday, desperate to avoid a third final loss to their rivals in seven seasons.
Ahly built a two-goal lead after 59 minutes through goals from South African Percy Tau and Mahmoud Kahraba before a capacity 50,000 crowd at the Cairo International Stadium.
But the final took a dramatic turn; when defending champions Wydad snatched a precious away goal four minutes from the end of regular time through substitute Saifeddine Bouhra.
Ahly were; no longer in control, and if Wydad can score once and not concede in the return match, they will retain the title and be; crowned African champions a fourth time.
The home side pushed forward from the kick-off and; Tau and Kahraba came close to scoring before the Libyan referee awarded Ahly a penalty for handball in 30 minutes.
Pleas from Wydad followed and; the match official changed his decision after viewing the pitch-side VAR monitor and realizing the ball hit the head of Bouly Sambou and not his hand.
Such was; the dominance of the Egyptian outfit that their third-choice goalkeeper, Mostafa Shobeir, did not touch the ball until gathering a harmless free-kick in 35 minutes.
Shobeir, a son of legendary Ahly goalkeeper Ahmed Shobeir, made his Champions League debut after injuries ruled out first-choice Mohamed el Shenawy and reserve Ali Lotfy.
The stand-in goalkeeper bravely; blocked a shot from Ayman el Hassouni with his body soon after and; then Tau put Ahly ahead four minutes into first-half added time.
Hussein el Shahat held; off the challenges of two defenders on the goal line before crossing and unmarked Tau nodded past goalkeeper Youssef el Motie at the far post.
It was; the fifth goal of the Champions League campaign for the South African, who starred in the semi-final triumph over four-time title-holders Esperance of Tunisia.
Mohamed Hany, deputizing as captain for El Shenawy, and El Shahat combined to set up Kahraba for the second goal after 59 minutes.
A brilliant long, cross-field pass from Hany found El Shahat, who pushed the ball across the goalmouth for Kahraba to; fire into the net from close range.
Sensing the title was; slipping from their grasp, Wydad responded positively and Yahia Attiyat Allah struck the woodwork; with a low shot midway through the second half.
El Motie saved superbly from Kahraba after great work by Tau; as the Cairo Red Devils sought the three-goal advantage that would have; virtually guaranteed them overall victory.
Zouhair el Moutaraji, whose wonder goal led; to Wydad beating Ahly in the 2022 final, made little impact this time and was; replaced by Bouhra at 82 minutes.
It proved a masterstroke by recently hired Belgian coach Sven Vandenbroeck; as the substitute slammed a loose ball into the net after Ahly failed to clear a cross.