Midfielder Jordam Opoku’s second half strike ensured Berekum Chelsea drew 1-1 with Egyptian giants Al-Ahly in their CAF Champions League Group B encounter on Sunday at the Accra Stadium.
Ahly shot into the lead just before half time through Ivorian forward Oussou Konan Anicet before a spirited second half performance earned the Ghanaian debutants a point in the day four clash of the group phase.
Berekum Chelsea needed victory to close the gap between them and leaders Ahly, but were yet again wasteful in front of goal escaping with a draw against an Ahly side that relied heavily on their experienced set up.
Ahly, still unbeaten at the group phase moved to 10 points and within touching distance of a place at the last four, whilst Berekum Chelsea has five points, with two games to go.
The 2010/2011 league champions altered their squad with starting roles for goalkeeper Abubakari Iddrisu, Samuel Kyere, Alfred Arthur whilst returnee Bismark Idan teamed up with Emmanuel Clottey in attack.
Few minutes into the game, Clottey fumbled at a golden opportunity with only Ahly goalie Sherif Ekramy to beat. Idan, playing his first competitive game on his return to the club after a sojourn in Turkey was a thorn in the flesh of the Ahly defence with his runs upfront as Clottey surprisingly played behind him.
The Egyptians, six-time winners of the competition and 4-1 winners in the reverse fixture two weeks ago in Cairo opted for circuit passes with long passes to Waleed Soliman and Mohamed Nagy ‘Geddo’ on the flanks. On 26 minutes, Geddo’s header from Ahmed Fathy’s corner missed narrowly during one of their forays upfront.
Three minutes before half time, Soliman after profiting from a counter attack crossed to Mohammed Aboutreika, whose header hit the upright and Oussou Konan tapped in the rebound for the first goal of the match.
Berekum Chelsea resumed stronger and six minutes later petit midfielder Opoku restored parity with a superb strike. Opoku trapped a long pass from Ahmed Adams before firing with his left past Ekramy for the equalizer.
The homers pressed on and in the 62nd minute, Idan missed a sitter with the yawning net at his mercy after Clottey had put him through.
It was Berekum Chelsea all the way as they raided the visitors halve consistently in search of the winner. Eight minutes from time, the crossbar denied the hosts after Jackson Owusu’s curler from a free-kick kissed it with Ekramy completely beaten.
Six minutes later, goalkeeper Iddrisu was to his side’s rescue saving with his feet from a one-on-one situation with substitute Mohamed Barakat in what marked the final action in the tense encounter.
Berekum Chelsea will next travel to Cairo to play Zamalek, also of Egypt in two-weeks before hosting DR Congo outfit TP Mazembe later next month in the final match.
Only the top two sides in the group advances to the next round of the competition which has $1.5 million monetary reward and a ticket to represent Africa at the 2012 FIFA Club World Cup for the winner.
Berekum Chelsea – Abubakari Iddrisu, Samuel Kyere, Alfred Arthur, Ahmed Adams, Edward Kpodo, Jackson Owusu, Solomon Asante, Jordan Opoku, Emmanuel Clottey, Bismark Idan/Ibrahim Issaka, Moro Awudu/Mohamed Abdul Basit
Al-Ahly – Sherif Ekramy, Sherif Mohamed, Waleed Soliman/Mohamed Barakat, Hossam Ghaly, Mohamed Nagy ‘Geddo’/Abdallah Mahmoud, Sayed Moawad, Mohamed Aboutreika, Mohamed Naguib, Ahmed Fathy, Mohmoud Ibrahim, Oussou Konan Anicet/Dominique da Silva. GNA