Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1260, (27 August - 2 September 2015 )
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1260, (27 August - 2 September 2015 )

Ahram Weekly

Giant steps

Though one game still remains in the group stage, Egypt’s Ahly and Zamalek are going to the semi-finals of the African Confederation Cup while Smouha, Egypt’s sole representative in the African Champions League, was ousted. Abeer Anwar reports

Ahly
Ahly
Al-Ahram Weekly

Two away wins helped Egypt’s powerhouse football clubs Ahly and Zamalek go to the semi-finals of the African Confederation Cup. With one game remaining in the group stage, the only question is whether they will finish first or second in their respective groups.

New Ahly recruit, Ghanian John Antwi, scored Ahly’s sole goal against Esperance of Tunisia in their match away in Rades to top Group A. With their defeat against the Red Devils, Tunisia’s Esperance were ousted of the second-tier continental club championship after four defeats at the group stage. They have collected three points from five games, while Ahly co-topped the group with 10 points, same as Tunisia’s Etoile du Sahel.

Ahly sole goal came only five minutes after the start to shock the home crowd and Esperance players who could not unlock Ahly’s defence the rest of the way.

Antwi’s efforts will be missed in future games due to an ankle injury which will keep him away for up to three weeks.

Meanwhile, on-loan Basel midfielder Ahmed Hamoudi led Egypt’s Zamalek to a 3-1 victory against Sfaxien of Tunisia away from home in the Confederation Cup Group B stage. Hamoudi, who is playing on a one season-loan, was introduced to the match on the 68th minute but was able to give Zamalek the lead with two goals to top Group B and guarantee a semi-final place.

Zamalek are now level on 12 points with Orlando Pirates of South Africa, who also made it to the competition’s semis.

Orlando qualified to the semis after a 2-0 win over AC Leopards of Congo in their Group B clash in Johannesburg. Terrence Makola and Oupa Manyisa scored in either half to secure victory for the Pirates and a place in the last four.

After grabbing their first league title in 11 years last month, the White Knights are also aiming to bag a continental title for the first time in 12 years. They have not tasted continental glory since winning the CAF Super Cup in 2003. Arch-rivals Ahly won the CAF Confederation Cup last year on their first attempt to become the first Egyptian club to lay hands on the second-tier continental club championship.

Ahly and Zamalek will meet in the semi-final should one team win their group while the other finishes second on the other side. They will avoid each other if the two finish either first or second.

In Sunday’s game, the summer signing who bagged his maiden Zamalek goal was ex-Swiss league forward Mahmoud ‘Kahraba’, opening the scoring nine minutes after the break before Ali Maaloul equalised for Sfaxien via a controversial penalty eight minutes later. Hamoudi then struck in the 80th and 93rd minutes.

“We have two continental matches to play before the Egypt Cup semi-final. So all our focus was on the Sfaxien game,” said Zamalek’s Portuguese head coach Jesualdo Ferreira after the match. “Though a point was enough to see us through, we were playing to win. We were missing a couple of our key players but we were able to do it. The players were up to the challenge and were determined to beat the Tunisians.”

“Sfaxien is a good side even though they are eliminated,” Zamalek captain Hazem Emam commented.

In the 2015 CAF Champions League, Smouha lost 2-1 to Moghreb Tetouan in Morocco to fall out of the tournament. Spanish striker Jesus Rodriguez Tato put the locals ahead after 13 minutes of play, sending MAT into the break with a precious one-goal advantage.

Abdeladim Khadrouf doubled their lead with 15 minutes to go. Smouha’s Amr Abu Sabaa managed to score a goal one minute later to revive Smouha’s hopes of a semi-finals spot.

However, the Moroccans held onto their advantage until the final whistle to grab the match’s three points.

The result sent the Egyptian side home, and set up Group A for a thrilling finish with three teams tied on eight points with just one game remaining, thanks to Al Hilal’s 1-0 victory over TP Mazembe in Omdurman earlier.

TP Mazembe will play host to Moghreb Tetouan in Lubumbashi in their final Group A outing, while Sudan’s Al Hilal will travel to Alexandria to face Smouha.

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