Al-Ahram Weekly Online   16 - 22 December 2010
Issue No. 1027
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Can't get going

Ahli extended their winless streak to four games and are still searching for their first victory under their new coach. Ahmed Morsy reports

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Ahli's 2-2 draw with Ittihad extended the club's winless Streak to four

In their second official game under their new coach Abdel-Aziz Abdel-Shafi, title holders Ahli failed to claim their first win under his tutelage after playing to a 2-2 tie at Ittihad of Alexandria on Friday. Ahli thus lengthened their winless run to four games in the domestic league, a draw and a loss under the former coach Hossam El-Badri and two more ties under Abdel-Shafi.

Ahli needed only 10 minutes to break the deadlock thanks to playmaker Mohamed Abu Treika. Youngster midfielder Afrotto, who was fielded as a right wing, outpaced former Egypt defender Ibrahim Said and pulled the ball back for Abu Treika who scored from a low drive.

Four minutes later, Ittihad equalised thanks to former Ahli striker Hani El-Egeizi who easily notched home from a rebound off Ahli goalie Mahmoud Aboul-Saoud who is being given the chance to play on a regular basis after Sherif Ekrami was injured.

Ahli's defence looked ragged after reverting to a new formation which introduced standard midfielder and captain Hossam Ghali as a sweeper while Mohamed Samir accompanied Wa'el Gomaa in central defence. As such, the costal club Ittihad tried to make good use of the emerging gaps in the Cairo-based club.

In the 23rd minute, the in-form Cameroonian striker Edet Otobong gave his side the lead after heading home Mohamed Fawzi's accurate cross from the right to score his eighth league goal.

Ittihad tried to preserve the advantage by closing in on Ahi's forwards, implementing the offside trap.

In the 32nd minute, Ahli's lone striker Mohamed Nagi, or 'Gedo' successfully broke the offside trap by receiving a long through pass inside the area to send a low shot into the bottom corner with aplomb.

In the second half, instead of pushing the tempo of the game in search of the winner, Ahli brought it down, presumably unintentionally. Gedo and Afrotto were replaced by striker Mohamed Fadl and midfielder Ahmed Shehabeddin.

After the game, Abdel-Shafi asked Ahli fans to be more patient with the club as it seeks ways to return to winning form.

"I ask the fans to be patient because we are in a difficult period," Abdel-Shafi requested in a press conference.

"Playing more than six matches away from home is also difficult.

"We have problems in certain positions. I'm finding it difficult to change the roles of some players," Abdel-Shafi added.

"Anyway, the draw was a fair result but we need to eliminate some errors soon."

Zamalek seem to be the only beneficiary of Ahli's consistent loss of points. The Cairo club lead the table, seven points ahead of their arch-rivals Ahli who are placed in fifth with 20 points but with a game in hand, against Haras Al-Hedoud which is scheduled for 21 December.

Both sides clash in the Cairo derby on 30 December after which Abdel-Shafi is likely to step down. Ahli are on the lookout for a new foreign coach to take over in January.

Surprisingly, French coach Herve Renard, who was on the top of the list of candidates to fill the managerial seat, was appointed as the new coach of Misri on Sunday after Mokhtar Mokhtar's departure.

"Misri chairman Kamel Abu Ali succeeded in striking a deal with Renard under which he will be in charge of the team until the end of the season," the club said in a statement on their official website.

"Abu Ali made an acquisition that suits the calibre of Misri, given the big name and plenty of experience Renard has."

The derby was scheduled for 31 December, however, the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) announced the date change owing to security reasons.

The highly anticipated encounter was originally scheduled for 28 November but was postponed due to the People's Assembly elections.

Although the latest postponement is just a day's difference, Ahli were not pleased.

"We are not protesting against the decision, but we are asking to be given an equal chance as our opponent," Ahli football director Sayed Abdel-Hafiz told the club's website.

"It doesn't make sense that we have a five-day rest period before the derby while Zamalek will take off six days.

"Of course the players will need more rest time before such an important game."

Elsewhere, in the domestic cup, Zamalek thrashed Bani Ebeid 6-0 to reach round 16, avenging an embarrassing cup defeat against the lower division in 2008.

On Friday in Cairo Stadium, Mahmoud Fathallah broke the deadlock after only five minutes before Hani Said doubled the tally one minute from the quarter-hour mark. The Ivorian striker Abu Kone struck for a hat-trick before right winger Hazem Emam scored his first goal this season in the 34th minute.

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