Ahly cruise past Ragaa 4-1, gaining a boost ahead of African league decider

Al Ahram

Champions Ahly secured an easy 4-1 win over lowly side Ragaa in Monday's Egyptian Premier League game to get a morale boost ahead of Sunday's anticipated African Champions League match against Tunisia's Etoile du Sahel. Ahly will host their North African rivals at Alexandria's Borg El-Arab Stadium in the second leg of the semi-final, hoping to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit to reach their first Champions League final since lifting the last of their record eight trophies in 2013.

The Reds earned their precious three points against Ragaa with three goals in the first half by Ahmed Fathi, Moemen Zakareya, and Junior Ajayi, as well as a fourth after the break by Saad Samir. But the injury of midfielder Hossam Ashour in the first half spoiled the joy of Ahly coach Hossam El-Badry, who will be already missing central midfielders Ahmed Fathi (due to suspension) and Hisham Mohamed (due to injury) in the upcoming match against Etoile du Sahel.

Ahly, who still have two league games in hand due to continental commitment, recovered from a disappointing 1-1 draw with Talae El-Geish in their opening game of the season to secure an easy 2-0 win over Ittihad of Alexandria last week. Ahly climbed with Monday's victory from the league's 14th place to the seventh, holding seven points, five behind leaders Masry.

Ragaa, who haven't secured a single win since the season began, scored their first goal of the season against Ahly, but they remained in the danger zone lying at the league's bottom with zero points. Ahly dominated the game from the start with the visitors aiming to defend deep to avoid defeat. Coming back from a rest in the most recent league match against Ittihad, Ahly's defensive duo, Tunisian left-back Ali Maaloul and Egypt's versatile defender Ahmed Fathi, imposed an early and serious threat alongside their midfield teammate Saleh Gomaa.

Winger Ahmed Fathi only took seven minutes to give the Reds an early lead after receiving a perfect pass from teammate Junior Ajayi to send a clear shot from outside the box that left the keeper helpless. Ajayi added more woes for Ragaa on minute 20 after he cleverly skipped past the defenders to send a perfect pass to forward Moemen Zakareya who eluded the last defender to score at the far post.

Ahly kept the pressure on, snatching the third goal just one minute before the break. Moroccan Striker Walid Azaro went one-on-one inside the box but he refused to shoot the ball sending it to first-half hero Ajayi who went clear on goal to hit the net easily.

Ahly rest in second half

Seeing his team gaining full control of the match, Ahly coach Hossam El-Badr preferred to rest key duo Junior Ajayi and Saleh Gomaa in the second half, replacing them with teammates Ahmed El-Sheikh and Ahmed Hamoudi. After receiving a nice pass from teammate Hani El-Egezy, Ahmed Said Oka was lucky to score Ragaa's first goal of the season on minute 54, when he cleverly passed Maaloul to hit the net of Ahly's second-choice keeper Mohamed El-Shenawi.

After just five minutes, Saad Samir restored the dominance for Ahly as he scored the fourth goal from a clear shot. Both teams tried to reach the net in the remaining minutes with Ahly holding the upper hand, but no more goals were scored until the final whistle.