Keeper Mohamed El-Shennawi was the hero as Ahly claimed the Club World Cup's bronze medal for a second time after beating South American champions Palmeiras 3-2 on penalties following a goalless draw in Qatar's Al-Rayyan on Thursday.
El-Shennawi, one of Ahly's standout performers in their treble-winning campaign last season, produced two superb saves in the shootout to lead the Red Devils to a remarkable victory over their fancied opponents.
He dived the right way to smother Felipe Melo's fifth spot kick, having blocked Rony's first penalty while Adriano also missed the target.
Ahly's Amr El-Sulaya and Marwan Mohsen also wasted their efforts but the popular Cairo club eventually prevailed to get something out of the tournament after losing 2-0 to European champions Bayern Munich in the semis.
Although Ahly finished third in 2006 in Japan, this year's bronze medal is all the more special because it came at the expense of one of the pre-tournament favourites.
It's the first time for Ahly in six Club World Cup appearances to overcome the Copa Libertadores winners, having lost in the semis to Brazilian duo Internacional and Corinthians in 2006 and 2012 respectively.
The record nine-time African champions also made light of the absence of key trio Mahmoud Kahraba, Hussein El-Shahat and Ali Maaloul to produce a spirited display, outplaying Palmeiras for large spells.
Wingers Kahraba and El-Shahat were suspended by FIFA for violating the Club World Cup's strict COVID-19 precautionary measures while Tunisian left-back Maaloul injured a hamstring muscle against Bayern.
Ahly's starting line-up featured three central midfielders as coach Pitso Mosimane sought to close down spaces on both flanks, with his strategy proving effective as Palmeiras were restricted to some tame efforts in the first half.
It was Ahly who managed to exploit gaps in Palmeiras' backline, creating a couple of goal-scoring chances.
They missed a sitter on 26 minutes when lone striker Walter Bwalya robbed former Juventus midfielder Melo on the edge of the area and Amr El-Sulaya gathered the loose ball.
The central midfielder skipped past his challenger on the area to go clear, only to send a poor effort cross the face of the goal with only the keeper to beat.
Another chance fell to Magdi Afsha in the 38th minute when the playmaker ran onto a superb long pass from Hamdi Fathi on the left hand side of the area but he miscued his angled shot.
Palmeiras carved out their first opening two minutes later, with El-Shennawi diving at full stretch to push away a free header from winger Rony following a counter attack.
The second period was more evenly-balanced, with fatigue taking a toll on both sides as they laboured for much of the half.
Ahly's central defender Yasser Ibrahim made a timely sliding tackle to block a shot from lively winger Rony while substitute Junior Ajayi had a goal disallowed for offside at the other end after Palmeiras keeper Weverton palmed a scissors kick from El-Sulaya into his path.
The match went straight to penalties and Ahly deservedly won to give Africa its fourth Club World Cup medal after DR Congo's TP Mazembe and Morocco's Raja finished as runners-up in 2010 and 2013 respectively.
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