Al-Ahram Weekly Online   23 - 29 July 2009
Issue No. 957
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Border Guards seal it

Haras Al-Hedoud claimed their first Super Cup and the second ever trophy in their history. Ahmed Morsy reports

Click to view caption
Mohamed Mekki of Al-Hedoud slides to get to the ball before Ahli's Ahmed Ali

It was the first time ever for the six-time African football champions Ahli to lose the domestic Super Cup and it happened at the hands of Haras Al-Hedoud, which beat 10-man Ahli 2-0 at the Military Academy Stadium on Tuesday night.

Prior to the clash, which pits the league and cup winners, Ahli, Zamalek and the Arab Contractors were the only teams to have previously won the one-match Super Cup which made its debut in Egypt in 2001.

In his first official game as Ahli coach, Hossam El-Badri saw his team end the game a loser after the sending off of Ahmed El-Sayed before the interval.

El-Badri started the game with the newly adopted 4-4-2 formation where El-Sayed and Mohamed Samir played as centre backs while Mohamed Talaat and Hani El-Egeizi led the attack.

Ahli had a good start and showed an attacking edge during the first few minutes. However, Al-Hedoud, or Border Guards in English, made optimum use out of their first real chance by taking the lead in the fifth minute when Ahli's defence failed to clear Ahmed Eid's cross to find Abdel-Salam Nagah, who squared towards Ahmed Mekki who easily turned to slot past Amir Abdel-Hamid.

Ahli should have equalised when Abu Treika released El-Egeizi. The latter's initial effort was blocked by Al-Hedoud goalkeeper Mathurin Kameni before a second attempt hit the post.

The game's turning point came when Ahli skipper El-Sayed was shown straight red for elbowing Eid in the 36th minute.

El-Badri's answer was to replace El-Egeizi with midfielder Mustafa Shebeta to add extra depth in the midfield as Ahmed Fathi took El-Sayed's place in defence.

In the 57th minute, Al-Hedoud made life even more difficult for their rivals when Ahmed Abdel-Ghani's shot from outside the box found its way into the back of the net.

Ahli tried to score but in vain since Al-Hedoud fully controlled the game after they doubled the score.

Ahli played the game without midfielder Ahmed Hassan due to injury and defender Wa'el Gomaa because of suspension. Ahli also had to do without the influential midfielder Mohamed Barakat owing to an injury since the end of last season. Barakat will also be sorely missed in the friendly Wembley Cup beginning next week in London in which Ahli will play Glasgow Celtic and Barcelona.

Tuesday's game, the curtain raiser of the new season, was the first ever Egyptian Super Cup to be guided by two Egyptian coaches, after Ahli's Portuguese tactician Manuel Jose left at the end of the season.

Al-Hedoud were coached by the young, aspiring Tarek El-Ashri.

Ahli assistant coach Alaa Mayhoub said that conceding an early goal was a major reason behind his team's loss. "The early goal and the red card changed the plans we had for the game," Mayhoub said after the clash. "We were also unlucky not to convert some of the early chances we had."

The former Egypt striker added that his team needed more time before his players can digest the team's new 4-4-2 formation which has always been hard for Egyptian players to apply.

El-Ashri has so far succeeded in teaching his players the same formation by which they won their first trophy, the Egyptian Cup, last season.

El-Ashri said his players are capable of challenging for more local and continental trophies.

"Now we can be one of the top clubs in Egypt, and not only aim to rub shoulders with Ahli, Zamalek and Ismaili," El-Ashri said after the Super Cup win.

"We showed it tonight as we were more organised than Ahli, and we surely earned the win."

"We have more experience implementing this formation, but Ahli can make a lot of progress using it if given more time," the former Egypt defender added.

El-Ashri urged Ahli fans to give their team more time to gel, stressing that Ahli are going through a transformation period and that "many negatives will arise before they get back on track."

Ahli will take part in the friendly Wembley Cup this month in London and will face Scottish giants Celtic on Friday 24 July, before meeting UEFA Champions League holders Barcelona on Sunday 26 July.

Each team will play two matches, with three points awarded for a win and one point for a draw. In the event of the tournament finishing with two or more teams on equal points, then the team with the better aggregate goals will be the winner.

The tournament is named after Wembley Stadium whose capacity of 90,000 seats makes it the second largest stadium in Europe.

Despite missing the Egyptian Super Cup game against Al-Hedoud with a minor knock, midfielder Hassan is set to play in the tournament. Newly-signed striker Francis Doe Forkey of Liberia could make his debut for Ahli at the Wembley Cup after he was listed by El-Badri.

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