Rwandan league champions APR FC failed to accomplish their primary tasks in the highly anticipated Caf Champions League first round, first leg clash against Al Ahly of Egypt by failing to score at home and conceded twice on Saturday at Amahoro stadium.
The army side dominated the first 45 minutes, controlling possession with the confidence that comes with playing in front of thousands of home fans despite the 20 or so Al Ahly fans lighting flares.
APR striker Michel Ndahinduka was brought down just inside the penalty box in the 14th minute but Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe opted to award a free-kick on the edge of the box rather than giving what appeared to be a clear penalty.
Had this opportunity been converted from the spot, perhaps it would have changed the game thereafter. Emery Bayisenge hit the subsequent free-kick into the Al Ahly wall.
Left back Albert Ngabonziza too had his shot saved after an excellent run on the left flank but most notably his good decision making and communication among the back four including Bayisenge, captain Ismael Nshutiyamagara and right back Michel Rusheshangoga kept the Egyptian side at bay.
Al Ahly, record eight-time African champions were forced to make long range attempts from Zakaria Maamen and Abdalla Mohmoud.
The tempo would change in the second half with the home side losing possession in dangerous positions in the midfield, with Jean Baptiste Mugiraneza played consciously following his ninth minute yellow card.
Playmaker Jean Claude Iranzi fell short in linking the defense and strikers, losing possession more often than not, consequently holding onto the ball amidst a pair of Al Ahly players on defense and lacking the vision to execute passes to the forwards – three of them on the day.
The laxity in midfield eventually was punished by the Egyptians as Emad Mohamed netted in the 67th and 84th minutes to hand the visitors a two-goal advantage heading into the return leg a fortnight from now in Egypt.
APR interim coach Vincent Mashami blamed the loss on his side’s drop in concentration and possible complacency in the second half.
He said, “We lost possession on both occasions that Al Ahly capitalized on to score the two goals. We played very well in the first half and struggled to match them in the second.”