Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
11 - 17 May 2000
Issue No. 481
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

 
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Blitzkrieg in Ismailia

By Abeer Anwar

In different -- but in the end all effective -- styles, Ahli, Zamalek and Ismaili got by first-leg opponents in Round 16 of their African club championships. Ahli had a comfortable 3-0 win over Vital'O of Burundi, followed by a less than comfortable 2-1 victory by Zamalek against Coffee of Ethiopia and a simply devastating 8-0 demolition of Sudan's Hay Al-Arab at the hands of Ismaili.

In the Confederations Cup in Ismailia, the home team registered an eight on the Richter Scale, the best African cup result an Egyptian team has ever produced.

Hay Al-Arab, third in Sudan's league standings, probably felt they should never have left Port Sudan. The team was totally outclassed, five goals scored against it before the half was over. It conceded a penalty just two minutes into the game. Two goals later and Hay Al-Arab's goalkeeper was substituted. That set the stage for another two goals before the half-time whistle.

The bombardment continued in the second half with three more goals. The barrage virtually booked Ismaili's ticket to the quarter-finals for the result of the second-leg encounter in Sudan will be purely academic.

In the Champions League in Cairo a few days earlier, Ahli was not nearly as impressive as their Suez Canal compatriots but still won by a cushiony margin against Vital'O, which had reached the finals of the Cup Winners Cup in 1992. But that was eight years ago and the Burundi team was only a shadow of its past self. The game was played the same week which saw Ahli extend the contract of its German coach Reiner Tsobil for one more year, a surprising turn of events to many observers. It was also played in the wake of Ahli's surprise 1-1 draw with Mansoura, located in the lower half of the table.

Against Vital'O there were few shocks. Junior sensation Mohamed Farouk continued to make headlines, crashing in the first goal from a header. Ten minutes into the second half and rejuvenated by the inclusion of Yasser Rayan, back from injury which immobilised him for six months, Alaa Ibrahim scored Ahli's second goal, using his head as well. But it was the third goal that will long be remembered. Defender Ibrahim Hassan, whose run-ins with Tsobil had become commonplace, climaxed precision passing with a deft floater which Vital'O goalkeeper could just stare at.

"At last the team put on a display," said Tsobil. "We're back to our usual style."

Zamalek's 2-1 win against Coffee of Ethiopia in the Cup Winners Cup was certainly the most grinding of the three Egyptian matches. Before the match, Zamalek was reminded of the 1998 upset in which Coffee eliminated Ahli from the first round of the same competition. A fluke, all thought at the time, but in Cairo last week Coffee proved otherwise. Though ball possession was almost entirely in Zamalek's favour, it could not translate their offense into goals.

Zamalek's early strike, in the ninth minute, bespoke of many more goals to come, but it was in fact Coffee which next struck, knotting the match 1-1 in the 19th minute. Abdel-Halim Ali gave Zamalek some breathing space in the 27th minute for his team's second goal. But there it ended, meaning Zamalek will have the toughest encounter of the Egyptian clubs when it meets Coffee away in two weeks.


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