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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Battle to clinch place at Club World Cup in UAE hots up in Egypt

First leg of CAF Champions League final between Al Ahly and Wydad Casablanca ends in 1-1 draw

Wydad Casablanca's Achraf Bencharki in action with Al Ahly's Ahmed Fathy on Saturday. The game ended in a draw. Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters
Wydad Casablanca's Achraf Bencharki in action with Al Ahly's Ahmed Fathy on Saturday. The game ended in a draw. Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters

The battle for the CAF Champions League crown and a place in December's Fifa Club World Cup is finely poised after Al Ahly and Wydad Casablanca drew 1-1 in the first leg of the continental final on Saturday night.

Playing in front of their home crowd in Alexandria, Egypt, hosts Ahly could not build on their early lead having gone ahead in the third minute through Moamen Zakaria. Conceding so soon into the match did not rock Wydad, though, who drew level 13 minutes later courtesy of the in-form Achraf Bencharki.

The precious away goal means Wydad take a slim advantage into the second leg in Casablanca on Saturday, with the winner booking their spot at the Club World Cup in the UAE in little more than a month’s time.

The December 6-16 tournament, staged in the Emirates for the third time and first since 2010, will feature defending champions Real Madrid and host representatives Al Jazira.

With New Zealand’s Auckland City and Mexico’s Pachuca also confirmed for the seven-team event, Ahly had initially looked favourites to join them.

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The eight-time African champions started brightly at the Borg El Arab Stadium and went in front on three minutes when Zakaria finished off a flowing move by sending a looping shot over Wydad goalkeeper Zouheir Laaroubi.

The hosts then struck the crossbar before top-scorer Bencharki glanced his header past Ahly goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy to restore parity.

Ahly had the better of the second half, but their Moroccan opponents held firm to head into next weekend confident of victory. Worryingly for Ahly, Wydad have won all six of their Champions League games in Morocco, conceding just once.