Zouhair El Moutaraji, Wydad Casablanca, May 2022Backpagepix

Al Ahly 0-2 Wydad Casablanca: Moroccan giants clinch third Caf Champions League title

Wydad Casablanca were crowned 2021-22 Caf Champions League winners after securing a 2-0 win over Al Ahly at Stade Mohammed V in Morocco on Monday night.

Zouhair El Moutaraji was in his element on the night as he scored in both halves to propel the reigning Moroccan champions to the most prestigious title in African club football. The Red Castle denied their Egyptian opposition a record-breaking third successive trophy and record-extending 11th Champions League trophy. 

Al Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane recalled experienced defender Yasser Ibrahim to the starting line-up with highly-rated centre backs Badr Benoun and Mohamed Abdelmonem missing due to injury. Mosimane pinned his hopes of masterminding a win on his South African compatriot, Percy Tau who inspired the Red Eagles to a 6-2 win over Algeria's ES Setif on aggregate in the semi-finals - scoring twice and providing three assists in the tie.

Mosimane's counterpart, Walid Regragui named a strong team with the lethal marksman Guy Mbenza leading the attack, while goalscoring defensive midfielder Yahya Jabrane captained the team. Jabrane was seen as the man capable of inspiring the Red Castle to a win over the Red Eagles having scored five goals in this season's Champions League - including one in the semi-finals against Angola's Petro de Luanda.

As expected, Wydad were quick off the blocks in front of their fans  - pressing up and forcing Al Ahly to give away possession in their own half and they came very close to scoring through Mbenza. The Congo-Brazzaville international unleashed a fierce shot from the edge of the Red Devils' box which beat goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy, but the ball hit the crossbar and Mosimane's side cleared their lines.

Considered by some to be the best goalkeeper based in Africa, El Shenawy was then beaten in the 15th minute, but it took something special from El Moutaraji to beat the Al Ahly captain. Ibrahim's poor pass found El Moutaraji who scored with a wonderful strike from outside the box to hand Wydad a 1-0 lead much to the delight of the 30,000 fans inside the 2018 African Nations Championship final venue.

The Red Devils then surged forward in numbers searching for the equalising goal and they won several corner-kicks. Having committed a mistake leading to the opening goal, Ibrahim came close to redeeming himself by scoring after connecting with Ali Maaloul's corner-kick, but the 29-year-old's glancing header went inches wide of the target with keeper Ahmed Reda Tagnaouti rooted to the ground. 

Tagnaouti, who was part of the Morocco squad at the 2018 Fifa World Cup finals in Russia, then pulled off a decent save - denying Al Ahly's Tunisian set-piece specialist Maaloul from a free-kick which was heading for the bottom left corner. The score was 1-0 to Wydad during the half-time break courtesy of El Moutaraji's fourth goal in this season's continental tournament. 

It took El Moutaraji three minutes to score again after the restart after some slack defending from Mohamed Hani. Reda Jaadi delivered a quality cross from the right which found Hani poorly positioned and El Moutaraji pounced and scored from the rebound after his intial attempt was blocked by El Shenawy to make it 2-0 to Wydad much to the dismay of Mosimane and his technical team.

Mosimane, who was hoping to emulate retired Portuguese coach Manuel Jose by winning a record fourth Champions League title, reacted by making a double substitution. The accomplished South African tactician introduced two-time Champions League final Man of the Match Mohamed Kafsha and last season's top scorer Mohamed Sherif as the Cairo giants looked to pull one back and then look to level matters. 

The momentum was with Al Ahly in the closing stages, but Tagnaouti was in top form on the night as he produced a brilliant diving save to deny Kafsha, before blocking Salah Mohsen's attempt from close range. The 26-year-old then came off his goal-line to deny Tau, before preventing what would have been an own-goal by finger-tipping Yahia Attiyat Allah's header over the crossbar to ensure that Wydad claimed a 2-0 win on the night.

The Red Castle won the tournament for the third time equalling the record for the most Champions League titles by a Moroccan club joining their arch-rivals Raja Casablanca who have also lifted the continental title three times. While Al Ahly's dominance of African football came to an end having won the last two tournaments.