Sunday,23 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1253, ( 2 - 8 July 2015)
Sunday,23 September, 2018
Issue 1253, ( 2 - 8 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Triumphant trio

All three Egyptian teams won their opening games in the group stage of Africa’s two most important football club championships. Abeer Anwar reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

In a weekend sweep, Egypt’s three representatives in the African Champions League and African Confederation Cup won their opening games at the start of the group stage.

In the Champions League, newcomers Smouha came from two goals down to beat Moghreb Tetouan of Morocco 3-2 in Alexandria in a remarkable come from behind victory.

In the Confederation Cup, Ahly trounced Esperance of Tunisia 3-0 while Zamalek kept it late before edging another Tunisian outfit, Szaxi, 1-0.

In Group A in Alexandria, Smouha played after having sacked their coach Helmi Toulan due to poor results in the Egyptian league.

Instead, Smouha went into the game under the supervision of youth team coach Mimi Abdel- Razek who steered his team from a 2-0 defeat to a victory. Two stunning goals came from Mourtada Fall and Ahmed Jahouh put Tetouan up after 12 minutes.

But Smouha’s Ivorian substitute Hermann Kouao netted twice in two minutes after Salah Amin scored the first on the 66th minute of the match.

Smouha now lead Group A with three points after four-time winners TP Mazembe of the DR Congo were held to a 0-0 draw at home to Sudanese giants El Hilal earlier on Sunday.

Farag Amer, Smouha’s president said, “We proved that Egyptians can play like men and that Smouha is a big club and can win at any time no matter who is coaching it. Helmi Tolan wanted to kick out the two players who scored today and this proves that my decision to fire Tolan was right. I am very happy with the players’ performance and they were up to the challenge and I hope we will be able to continue our march for the African title.”

Moghreb Tetouan’s Spanish head coach Sergio Lobera had this to say after the match: “I am astonished by the score. We were the winners and all of a sudden we became the losers. I was able to beat Ahly and eliminate it from the competition [in an earlier round] so how can I lose? But I did not plan well for this match as I did for Ahly and Smouha is a big club that deserves respect so congratulations to them.”

In other games in the Champions League, Entente Setif suffered a 2-1 home defeat against fellow Algerians USM Alger as they resumed their fight for the title.

Elsewhere in Group B, striker Bakri Al-Madina starred as Al Merreikh won 2-0 against Algerian visitors El-Eulma in Omdurman, Sudan.

Another Sudanese club, Al-Hilal managed to hold TP Mazembe to a 0-0 draw in the Democratic Republic of Congo as Group A kicked off.

In the Confederation Cup, it was a marvellous night in Ramadan for Ahly who opened their account against Tunisia’s Esperance in Group A with a 3-0 over Esperance in Suez Stadium.

Esperance have been involved in some classic CAF clashes with Ahly down the years, most recently the 2012 Champions League final won by the Red Devils.

Abdullah Al-Said, the talented midfielder, opened the score with a goal in the 20th minute. He went on to add the second in the 57th minute while substitute Moemen Zakareya came back from injury to score in the dying minutes.

Although Ahli’s Hossam Ashour received a red card in the second half the Red Devils were not affected. On the contrary, they scored the third goal minutes later.  

Ahly now top Group A, with Tunisia’s Etoile du Sahel in second place following a narrow 1-0 victory over Mali’s Stade Malien earlier in the day.

Fathi Mabrouk, Ahli’s head coach, said he was very happy with his team’s win. “I am very happy with the score especially after we played with just 10. I wish I could complete training Ahly not only this season but forever as it is my favourite team.”

Mabrouk was used as a stopgap coach after the firing of Spanish manager Garrido earlier this season. A replacement is expected at the end of the domestic season.

A last-minute strike from substitute Abdoulaye Cisse was enough to give Zamalek  the first three points of the group stage at the expense of Tunisia’s CS Sfaxien on Saturday at the 2015 Orange CAF Confederation Cup that was played in Petrosport Stadium in Cairo.

The Burkinabe-import had just entered the match when he scored the winner a minute from time to give the White Knights the kiss of life. The team now shares top spot in Group B with Orlando Pirates of South Africa with three points apiece.

Zamalek’s attack was greatly affected by the absence of star Bassem Morsi who was suspended for the clash and this was reflected in the score. But Zamalek’s defence was perfect, giving Sfaxien, the most successful side in the history of the second-tier continental club championship with three triumphs, little room to manoeuvre.

In the same group, Pirates shocked Congolese side AC Leopards by a similar result in the group’s other fixture earlier in Dolisie. A 57th minute goal by defender Happy Jele was enough to earn Orlando Pirates a rare win over Congolese side, AC Leopards in their Group B opener on Saturday in Dolisie.

“We deserved to win and we did,” Zamalek’s Portuguese head coach Jesualdo Ferreira said. “The players were up to the challenge although they appeared a bit reluctant to play in the first half but it all changed in the second.

“I want to thank my players as they remained focused and created chances. We will focus in the coming national league matches then think about our next opponent. Our target is nothing but the trophy and I think we deserve it.”

Zamalek are in first place in the domestic league, nine points ahead with five matches left.

Zamalek’s goal scoring hero, Abdoulaye Cisse, said, “I can’t believe that I was able to score the rescue goal as it has been a long time since I scored but I did my best all through the match and I felt that I will be rewarded and I was.”

“We have been studying Zamalek for weeks but I never thought that Zamalek wouldn’t attack,” CS Sfaxien head coach Paulo Duarte said. “We needed to counter attack but Zamalek players were on the defensive and they created a number of chances that made them the winners. We were not an easy prey and the best proof is that the goal came in the last minute of the match. But I have to confess that Zamalek were better and I hope we will be able to make up for our loss in the coming match.”

Thirteen years after their last continental success -- the CAF Champions League in 2002 -- Zamalek are hoping to regain African glamour once again by winning their first ever CAF Confederation Cup title.   

Although the Confederation Cup is considered second tier behind the more glamorous and more lucrative Champions League, this year the CAF Confederation Cup seems stronger due to the presence of eight giant teams in the competition.

Ahly, compatriots Zamalek, Tunisians Esperance and Etoile Sahel and South Africans Orlando Pirates have all won the CAF Champions League, the marquee event on the African club football calendar. Completing the list are Tunisians CS Sfaxien, Congolese AC Leopards and Malians Stade Malien, all former CAF Confederation Cup holders.

Zamalek have won nine African titles including five CAF Champions League titles, three CAF Super Cup titles and were handed the CAF Cup Winners’ Cup once.

Their rivals, CS Sfaxien, have four titles, with three of them in the CAF Confederation Cup and the fourth in the CAF Cup.

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