Al Ahly squeezes into CAF Champions League quarterfinals

TUNIS, TUNISIA - 2021/06/19: Coach Pitso Mosimane (second from right) celebrates with his players during the first leg CAF champions league semi-final football match between Tunisia's Esperance Sportive de Tunis and Egypt's al-Ahly at the Olympic Stadium in Rades. (Final score; Esperance sportive 0: 1 Egypt's al-Ahly). (Photo by Jdidi wassim/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Defending champions Al Ahly labored to a 1-0 win against Al Hilal Omdurman in their final group match in Cairo on Sunday to confirm their place in the CAF Champions League quarterfinals.

Al Ahly needed just a draw to seal their place in the knockout phase but knew defeat by a big margin would end the defense of their title.

FILE PHOTO: Al Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane (second from right) celebrates with his players during a past CAF champions league match. /Getty Images

Hussein El Shahat scored the only goal of the game in the 74th minute as the Egyptian side avoided a potentially embarrassing early exit from the competition.

Victory for Al Ahly saw them finish in second place in Group A with 10 points, six points behind group winners Mamelodi Sundowns.

Sundowns finished the group stage unbeaten after a 3-0 win at home to Al-Merreikh courtesy of goals from George Maluleka, Bradley Ralani and Kermit Erasmus.

In Group B, Raja Casablanca claimed top spot with a 1-0 win at home to ES Setif of Algeria, who also qualified for the last eight.

Competition debutants Amazulu of South Africa missed out on advancing to the quarterfinals after they were held to a 1-1 draw away to Horoya AC in Conakry.

Four-time winners Esperance of Tunisia came from a goal down to defeat CR Belouizdad 2-1 in Radès to remain unbeaten and secure the top spot from the Algerian side in Group C.

Etoile du Sahel, another Tunisian side, finished third in the group after a thrilling 3-2 win at home to Botswana’s Jwaneng Galaxy in Sousse.

Wydad Athletic Club ended the group stage on a high following a 5-1 win against Petro Atletico in Casablanca. The Moroccan side topped Group D with 15 points followed by Petro Atletico, who suffered their first loss of the campaign, with 11.

Five-time winners Zamalek, already eliminated from the tournament, earlier on drew 0-0 with bottom-of-the-table Sagrada to finish a disappointing third with four points.

It is the second successive season that Zamalek, the joint second most successful club in the competition, has exited Africa’s premier club competition in the group stage.

The draw for the knockout phase of the African Champions League is scheduled to take place on April 5.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)