Home side Simba SC were held to a 2-2 draw by Egyptian giants Al Ahly in a thrilling opening fixture of the inaugural edition of the African Football League (AFL) played at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam on Friday evening.
Wekundu wa Msimbazi had come from a goal down to lead 2-1 courtesy of two second half goals from Kibu Dennis and substitute Sadio Kanoute, but Mahmoud Kahraba levelled for the Red Devils minutes later, adding on to Reda Slim’s first half goal.
At a full to capacity stadium in Dar, Ahly went to the break a goal up, and deservedly so, after having the chunk of scoring chances in the opening 45 minutes.
Slim found the back of the net at the stroke of 45 minutes when he slid the ball beyond keeper Ally Salim after running into a brilliant through ball from Mahmoud Kahraba. Simba were caught in possession with Ahly quick on the transition to send the entire stadium into silence.
Slim had been adanger all evening for Ahly and earlier on had a similar chance when he ran behind the defense, but keeper Salim was quick off his line to block the effort.
He had also produced a brilliant chance for Kahraba when he sent him through with a dipping ball, but the forward could only agonizingly watch as his effort with the keeper at his mercy flying over the bar.
Earlier on, Kahraba also had another great opportunity at goal when he picked the ball on the right, dummying past Che Malone Fondo, but his final shot flew over the bar.
Percy Tau also had some chances for Ahly. In the 20th minute, a good passing move that started off with Karim Abdelhamid on the left saw Mohamed Magdy Afsha feed the South African, but his left footed curling effort went over the bar.
Simba had some few chances at goal, first defender Hennock Inonga trying his luck with a long range effort which flew over the bar, while Clatous Chama had their only effort on target in the opening half, a freekick that ended up in a comfortable save for the keeper.
At the start of the second half, Simba made changes, Kanoute and Jean Baleke coming on for Luis Miquissone and Mzamiru Yassin, to add some punch in attack.
The changes would prove impactful as Simba levelled just seven minutes after the restart when Kibu dived to head in from close range after Chama had done well to float back a cross from the backpost.
And, the stadium roared into deafening crescendo just eight minutes later when Simba got into the lead, substitute Kanoute glancing in a header from the near post off a corner.
Simba were now flying in confidence, with the crowd pulling their weight behind them. But, the lead only lasted three minutes.
A case of poor marking from a setpiece at the back cost them as off an Afsha delivery from a freekick, substitute Marawan Attia slapped the ball across goal with keeper Salim pushing it to Kahraba’s path, the latter tapping home.
Despite the leveler, Simba still had the belief and they kept pushing. They almost got back into the lead with quarter of an hour left to play, but Saido Ntibazonkiza saw his shot from the edge of the box come off the bar.
The home side made more changes, Israel Mwenda coming on for Shomari Kapombe while Willy Essomba Onana came on for Kibu.
However, they could not conjure a hunt for a third goal, and they now head for the return tie in Cairo next weekend needing either an outright win or a high scoring draw of more than two goals to progress.