Township Rollers’ hopes of advancing into the quarterfinals of the 2018 CAF Champions League suffered a major blow as they succumbed 1-0 against Al Ahly at the National Stadium in Gaborone on Saturday evening.
Salif Coulibaly scored the only goal of the game late on to see the Egyptian giants move to seven points in second place in Group A and open a four-point lead over Rollers and KCCA, who are both on three points. Leaders Esperance de Tunis have 10 points and are safely through to the last eight.
Ahly settled the quicker of the two teams and began creating half-chances for the likes of Walid Azaro, Junior Ajayi and Walid Soliman. Rollers took a while to establish themselves, but livened up the home crowd on 12 minutes when Lemponye Tshireletso’s long-range effort flashed just wide of the target.
Ahly had the ball in the back of the net on the quarter hour mark when Azaro took advantage of a mistake from goalkeeper Keagile Kgosipula, but a foul had already been awarded, while nine minutes later Ajayi had a free header in the penalty area but put his effort well wide of the mark.
The only significant action in the remainder of the first half was a foul on Ajayi i the 37th minute which could have resulted in a penalty for the visitors, but was missed by the referee. The Nigerian attacker was stretched off and replaced due to a knock suffered in the incident.
Rollers went up a couple of gears in the second half and began to dominate the game. They forced Ahly goalkeeper Mohamed Elshenawy into the first major save of the match when Tshireletso let fly from long range in the 66th minute.
Yet Ahly remained a threat on the counter and should have made more of a chance in the 70th minute which saw substitute Islam Mohareb head wide of the mark after a fine cross from right-back Mohamed Hany.
The Egyptian side had looked dangerous from set pieces throughout the match and on 81 minutes they came good on their dead-ball threat: a corner kick found towering defender Salif Coulibaly and he powered home a header to put Al Ahly 1-0 up against the run of play.
The Malian’s goal proved to be decisive and secured a crucial three points for the Red Devils as they chase a record-extending ninth continental crown.
Township Rollers 0
Al Ahly (0) 1 (Coulibaly 81’)
Rollers: Kgosipula, Ntege, Motlhabankwe, Ncenga, Van der Westhuizen, Nato, Ditshupo (Lechaena 85’), Sikele (Boy 75’), Tshireletso, Moalosi, Mogorosi
Al Ahly: Elshenawy, Hany, Coulibaly, Saad, Maaloul, Elsolia, Ashour (Mohamed 61’), Zakaria, Soliman (Elsayed 80’), Ajayi (Mohareb 41’), Azaro