Sunday,18 March, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1294, (5 - 11 May 2016)
Sunday,18 March, 2018
Issue 1294, (5 - 11 May 2016)

Ahram Weekly

At the top of their game

Marawan Zayed takes a closer look at the progress of Egyptian footballers at their European clubs

Al-Ahram Weekly

It has been a significant week for European-based Egyptian footballers, especially Mohamed Salah who plays for Italy’s Roma Club, and Ahmed Al-Mohamadi with his English team Hull City. Salah set up a winner, while Al-Mohamadi helped Hull City win another game.

Mohamed Salah helped Roma snatch a late winner in their battle for second place against Napoli, by setting up the winner for Belgian star Nainggolan in the last minute of the game. Roma started the game five points behind their opponents who needed to win to make sure their slim title hopes aren’t over, since anything but a win for Napoli officially secures the league title to high flyers Juventus.

On the other hand, Roma desperately needed to win to ensure they automatically qualify for the European Champions League in second place, since third place takes part in the playoffs to qualify for Europe’s top competition.

Both Roma and Napoli were nervous and created very few chances throughout the game, even though Salah came very close to scoring in the very first minute as he struck a brilliant first-time shot that flew just over the bar after a bad clearance from Napoli’s defense. Salah fought on for the rest of the game, with no real chances at the goal until his special moment came in the last minute of the fierce encounter. Salah received the ball inside the box from Maicon and set up Nainggolan with skill and quick thinking to deceive the opponents inside the box. Salah’s pass was very well timed and accurate and the Belgian star struck it first time into the far corner past Pepe Reina, and won.

The victory changed nothing in the league standings, but now only two points separate the two teams with three games to go which foretells a thrilling few weeks for both teams. Egyptians hope Roma’s player of the season, Salah, can guide his team to second place to secure an automatic spot in the Champions League next season.

In England, Al-Mohamadi played a rare 90 minutes as his team defeated Brentford to stay in fourth place. A series of bad results in the last few weeks ended Hull City’s chances of finishing in the top two places of the Championship, which would ensure automatic qualification for the English Premier League. They now have to do it the hard way via playoffs in which third, fourth, fifth and sixth place go head-to-head in two semifinals. The winner of the final will place third in the Premier League.

Still in England but with another Egyptian player, Mohamed Al-Nenni played yet another game and yet another 90 minutes as he continues his impressive form for Arsenal which even saw him leapfrog a former guaranteed starter, Francis Coquelin, to a place in the starting lineup. It is worth noting that since making his first start with his new club in the League, Al-Nenni has been on the starting list of all games since, including the away-game against Barcelona in the European Champions League, where he scored his first goal for the club. Later, the goal was chosen as goal of the week in the competition as well.

However, the end result of the game wasn’t as impressive as Al-Nenni’s performance since it ended in boring 0-0 against relegation fighters Sunderland away from home. Egypt’s current prodigy star was very composed and calm in the middle of the pitch, and rarely put a foot wrong throughout the whole game. The result puts Arsenal’s chances of finishing at the top in danger since they now have 64 points from 35 games, while Manchester United has 59 points from 34 games. A win for them would close the gap between them to just two points with three games to go. This means Al-Nenni will follow Salah’s footsteps with his own electrifying finale to the season.

In Portugal, Ahmed Hassan Kouka played for 75 minutes as his team Braga suffered a 1-0 defeat against a very strong Pacos de Ferreira, who are known for being extremely difficult to beat at home. The home team scored in the first half and defended skillfully after that, blocking Kouka and his teammates from scoring except for a few half chances including a header from Kouka which the keeper saved with ease.

Braga already secured their place in the playoffs for the Europa League qualification so the result didn’t really matter at this stage of the season. They stayed fourth in the league with no chances of catching up with third place Porto who have a 13 point lead, with only three games. Nonetheless, Kouka will definitely be hoping to add to his impressive goal tally in the remaining three weeks.

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