Aboutrika steers Al Ahli to Champions League title

Sun Nov 10, 2013 3:37pm EST
 
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(Reuters) - Al Ahli's Mohamed Aboutrika underlined his status as the most successful player in African club competition over the last decade by scoring in a 2-0 final win over Orlando Pirates that clinched the African Champions League crown on Sunday.

His 54th minute strike set up the Egyptians for their second-leg victory over the South Africans in Cairo, and a 3-1 aggregate triumph, to put a successful seal on a stellar career.

Ahmed Abdelzaher added a second goal 12 minutes from time to ensure Ahli lifted the trophy for a record-extending eighth time, after a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Soweto last weekend, and qualified for next month's Club World Cup in Morocco.

Egyptian Aboutrika, playing his last home game before retiring at the end of the year, has featured in five of Al Ahli's Champions League-winning sides in the last eight years, consistently delivering talismanic performances.

He swept home a loose ball from close range after a shot from Ahmed Fathi was blocked by the Pirates defense but fell fortuitously into his path, underlining Aboutrika's uncanny ability to pop up in the right place at the right time.

The goal came at a crucial time for Ahli, who had spent most of the game on the back foot before breaking the spirit of the South Africans and allowing the Cairo club to assume command.

POLITICAL UPHEAVAL

The Egyptian side's success came against a backdrop of political upheaval in the north African country, which has had a major impact on Ahli who have not played outside the Champions League since the domestic league was cancelled in June.

It was only a special concession by the country's military authorities that allowed the final to be played in Cairo, where all major football had been stopped since the overthrow of president Mohamed Mursi's government in July.   Continued...

 
Mohamed Aboutrika of Egypt's Al-Ahli waves to fans after he was substituted during their African Champions League final soccer match against South Africa's Orlando Pirates at the Arab Contractors Stadium in Cairo, November 10, 2013. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh