The fans left their Casablanca homes on Sunday and filled Stade Mohamed V hours before kick-off to make a huge amount of noise, but they drifted away in silence as Al-Ahly defeated Wydad AC to win their 11th African champions League title.
After the first leg in Cairo a week earlier ended with a 2-1 win for the Egyptians, for much of the second leg, the Moroccan hosts were leading 1-0 and heading for a second successive title win. A late equalizer from Mohamed Abdelmomen, however, meant that the return match ended 1-1 to give the Red Giants a 3-2 aggregate win. As well as continental title number 11, it gave Al-Ahly revenge after losing in last year’s final to the same team.
Africa’s showpiece was as hard-fought but more bad-tempered than the European version 24 hours earlier and with fewer goal mouth incidents to talk about. It was fitting that both goals came from set pieces. Moroccan international Yahia Attiyat Allah put Wydad ahead on the night in the first half, but late in the second Abdelmonem headed home the all-important equalizer for Al-Ahly.
It was always going to be a difficult first half for the Egyptians in the cauldron of Casablanca and the game plan was very much about keeping it tight until the break at least.
So it was not a surprise that the home team made most of the running and the deadlock was broken on the night. A free-kick from the right side of midfield was floated into the area by Attiyat Allah, and it bounced just inside the six yard box and then ended up in the right side of the net without touching any player. If the atmosphere was buzzing before, it reached a whole new level as more than 45,000 fans started to believe that it was happening as their away goal from the first leg put Wydad in the driving seat.
There was little threat from the visitors in the first half with a shot from Kahraba that went over the bar just before the break, their best effort.
Before the game Ahly coach, Marcel Koller, mentioned the need for officials to be on top of their game, but it was the team from Cairo who were in danger of losing their cool as they made their displeasure known about some of the decisions.
After the break, Ahly pushed forward but neither team were creating any chances of note and Wydad were starting to sit back and protect what they had. Then it all changed out of nowhere with 12 minutes remaining. It was not a surprise that it was a set piece. An Ali Maaloul corner from the right was met by Abdelmonem at the near post, whose beautiful flicked header sent the ball into the opposite side of the net.
The fans, for the first time, were silenced, and suddenly there was an urgency about the Moroccans who now needed a goal just to take the game into extra-time and it was the men in red who were looking to slow things down. Both waited to see how much time was going to be added and the hosts received a boost when eight minutes were held up by the fourth official.
It was Ahly, however, who looked likelier to score on the counter-attack but they just could not quite find the goal that would have put the tie to bed. Fortunately for them, Wydad couldn’t either. The final whistle took an age to come but when, after 99 minutes Mohamed El-Shennawy came and claimed a cross, all knew it was over and the celebrations from the small pocket of away fans, the players and coaching staff started.