Ahli coach Manuel Jose said that the 2-0 victory over Hilal of Sudan in the opening game of the CAF Champions League quarter-finals on Sunday was a good start to the group stage.
Ahli needed two late goals by substitutes Flavio Amado and Osama Hosni to conclude a hard-fought victory against an ultra-defensive Hilal side.
I think it’s a good start, and if we managed to beat ASEC Mimosas in the next game it will be a huge step towards the semis, Jose was quoted by Ahli s official site AhlyEgypt.com.
We struggled in the first half because Hilal were defending with 10 players, but we dominated the game and we were unlucky to end the first half without scoring.
After the interval, the players fitness started to decline because of the long season effect, but we managed to win it at the end.
The Portuguese coach was subject to critics for keeping Egyptian league top scorer Flavio on the bench and taking off star man Mohamed Aboutrika ten minutes from time.
However, his tactics proved fruitful as the three subs Flavio, Hosni and Ahmed Sedik, who brilliantly created the second goal, sealed the victory for the defending champions.
Flavio was tired after playing for Angola, Aboutrika as well was not 100% fit after returning from injury, and anyways the substitutes have done the job.
Jose said that his team is currently focusing on the crunch Egyptian Cup semi-finals clash with Ismail on Thursday, in an attempt to defend their cup title.
We are hoping for a victory against Ismaili on Thursday, and we are unfazed by claims from Ismaili and Zamalek that they will meet in the final, he added.
Ahli s arch rivals Zamalek are almost through as they will face second division side Assiut Petroleum, while Ismaili are targeting a third straight win over Ahli this term.