Pitso Mosimane’s Al Ahly claimed a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Qatari giants Al-Duhail in the Fifa Club World Cup quarter-final on Thursday evening.
Hussein El Shahat’s first-half goal earned the Egyptian champions the victory in an encounter which took place at Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar.
Al Ahly head coach Mosimane surprisingly named DR Congolese striker Walter Bwalya in the starting line-up ahead of the experienced marksman Marwan Mohsen.
While influential playmaker El Shahat, who has a knack of scoring important goals for the Red Devils, was deployed behind Bwalya by Mosimane.
On the other hand, Kenya international Michae
l Olunga led the attack for Al-Duhail, who had former Morocco captain Medhi Benatia at the heart of their defence.
Both teams were cautious in the opening exchanges and there was nothing to threaten the two goalkeepers, Mohamed El Shenawy and Salah Zakaria Moussa.
However, the Red Devils upped the tempo after the 20th-minute mark and they managed to break the deadlock through El Shahat on the half-hour-mark.
The 29-year-old, who netted six goals in last season’s Caf Champions League,
fired past Moussa from the edge of the box to make it 1-0 to Al Ahly with Bwalya providing the assist.
Having proved to be a constant nuisance for the Al Duhail defence, Bwalya then thought he had doubled Al Ahly’s lead when he beat Moussa with a brilliant finish, but his goal was disallowed for offside after a VAR review.
Al-Duhail were struggling to create chances for their main striker, Olunga, who was tightly marked by Moroccan centre back Badr Banoun and Al Ahly were leading 1-0 at the interval.
Olunga was replaced by Ghana-born striker Mohammed Muntari prior to the start of the second half as the Red Knights looked to restore parity.
The Red Knights applied some pressure on the Red Devils and El Shenawy made three smart saves to deny Muntari, Mohammed Mousa and Eduardo Dudu.
Mosimane reacted by introducing Mohsen and Akram Tawfik, who is a defensive midfielder by trade, as the Kagiso-born tactician looked to change the complexion of the match.
The African champions were able to contain Al-Duhail in the closing stages of the game and ultimately, Al Ahly emerged 1-0 winners. They will face German giants Bayern Munich on Monday.
The winner between Al Ahly and Bayern will take on either Brazilian giants SC Palmeiras or Mexican side Tigres UANL in the final on February 11