Two early goals helped Ahli edge closer to a record sixth African Champions league title, Ahmed Morsy reports
Five-time African champions Ahli are half-way to winning an unprecedented sixth title after a 2-0 victory over Cameroon's Coton Sport in the first-leg of the Champions League final in Cairo on Sunday.
Nine-time Cameroonian champions Coton will need to spring a huge surprise in the second leg if they are to win their first ever continental title.
Egyptian giants Ahli share with arch-rivals Zamalek the record of five Champions League triumphs.
Despite the defeat, Coton Sport relishes the feat of becoming the first Cameroonian side to win the ultimate African football club cup after 27 years while Ahli seek a fourth triumph since the new format was introduced in 1997.
Coton were no match for Ahli which dominated the entire first half.
In front of 74,000 spectators, Ahli almost opened the scoring after two minutes when classy playmaker Mohamed Abou-Treika released Mohamed Barakat with a deft through pass. Barakat went clear on goal but Coton keeper Kassaly Daouda rushed out to block his low shot.
However, a minute later, combative defender Wa'el Gomaa escaped his marker at the near post to head home Abou-Treika's curling free kick from the left to give Ahli the early lead.
The in-form Angolan striker Flavio doubled the lead on the quarter hour mark after capitalising on some sloppy defending from the visitors. He was found unmarked by Ahmed Hassan's free kick from near the halfway line and his deftly directed back header eluded Daouda.
In the second half, things were not much different, though Ahli might be blamed for not expanding the gap as they wasted two glorious opportunities that could have made their task in the second leg a walk in the park.
One of which was when Barakat raced down the right flank before sending in a low cross. Flavio's clever dummy left Abou-Treika in space but his right-footed shot from inside the area went just wide.
Eight minutes from time, Flavio squandered another clear-cut chance when Abou-Treika's low cross evaded Daouda and found the former Petro Atletico man, who fired astonishingly wide with the goal gaping.
Ahli missed the services of Ahmed Belal due to a groin injury. The 28-year-old striker suffered a groin muscle strain that ruled him out of the game.
Ahli coach Manuel Jose dished out praise for his players after their victory in what is their fourth successive Champions league final.
"We produced a good performance today, although we wasted numerous chances," said the Portuguese coach.
"The players exerted magnificent effort in the game. I am really proud of them all."
"I am glad that we prevented the visitors from scoring. If so, our mission would have been way harder," he added.
But Ahli skipper Shadi Mohamed was convinced his side's 2-0 victory was substandard.
"I am not jubilant over the result. we could have ended the game in a clean sweep and got one hand on the title," the international defender said.
Although he was not satisfied with the result, the 31-year- old acclaimed his team's performance. "Our display was all in all quite well. We played more like a team," Mohamed added.
Coton Sport coach Alain Ouombleon said his side will come on against Ahli in the second leg of the Champions League final with a whole different performance, believing it was going to be the other way around in their second encounter.
"The result is not acceptable, but we will avenge our loss in the return leg," the Cameroonian coach said.
"We are going to show Ahli the same courtesy when we host them."
He also said his players had not paid enough attention to set pieces which he warned them about ahead of the game.
"Ahli are dangerous at set pieces, but we didn't show caution and conceded two goals as a result," he added.
Ouombleon congratulated the Cairo side on their victory, saying they are tough opponents and their display was praiseworthy.
The second leg takes place on 16 November in Cameroon.
Last year the prestigious trophy slipped out of the Egyptian champions' grasp when they were beaten 3-1 by Etoile Sahel of Tunisia in the second leg after a 0-0 draw in the first leg.
Before Sunday's game, Cameroon legend Roger Milla said he believed Coton Sport deserve to be crowned African champions at the expense of Ahli.
Milla, who was named the best African player in history, sees no reason why Coton Sport can't win the prestigious title.
"All Cameroonians will support Coton Sport to return home with a satisfying result," Milla told the club's official website.
"Coton deserve to win this trophy. I will be supporting them till the end."
As a sign of support for the nine-time Cameroonian league champions, Milla led their delegation to Cairo.
Earlier this week, Coton won the Cameroonian Cup title after beating Aigle de Dschang 4-2.
In contrast, upon their arrival in Cairo last Thursday, Coton Sport refused to stay in the hotel Ahli allocated for them and opted to check in the Olympic village in Ismailia.
They took a bus provided by the Cameroonian Embassy and headed straight to Ismailia. A similar situation occurred during the competition's semi-finals, when Nigeria's Enyimba refused to use any facilities provided by Ahli.
Coton Sport, formed six year's after compatriots, Canon Yaoundé achieved the last of its three titles in 1980, also has ambitions of becoming the first club from Cameroon to win the Champions League since the new format began.