Wednesday,15 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1301, (23 - 29 June 2016)
Wednesday,15 August, 2018
Issue 1301, (23 - 29 June 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Whites win, Reds retreat

Zamalek won their first game in the group stage of the African Champions League while arch rivals Ahly lost in their opening encounter, reports Abeer Anwar reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Ahly, eight-time champions, made a poor start in the group stage of the African Champions League after losing 3-2 to Zesco United of Zambia on Saturday after a two-year absence  from Levy Mwanawasa Stadium.

It was the first defeat for the Red Devils under the guidance of their newly imported Dutch coach, Martin Jol, former Tottenham Hotspur manager, after two victories and two draws in the qualifiers.

John Chingandu scored first to give the Zambian club the lead before   Ghanaian John Antwi was able to level the result. Zambian Cletus Chama added the second and then scored again after 56 minutes before Antwi pulled one goal back to finish 3-2 to Zesco.

Jol told the press after the match that the players were affected by fasting in Ramadan.  “The only problem is that the players were very energetic. But I was satisfied in the second half that they fought back. Of course it is Ramadan but they still had the power and strength to try to do something about it and of course the mentality of our team is very good,” he said.

“It is a bad start for us and a good start for them (Zesco). We have to find a solution for balancing the team as we are still in an awkward position coming at the bottom of our group. We very were unfortunate today to play against a team which was very sharp and energetic. Every shot on goal resulted in a goal.”

He added that in the second half Ahly tried to repair the damage and still hoped to get a result because they wanted to win but “they scored a second goal and then a third; it was not easy to do something about it.”

Before the match, Ahly chairman Mahmoud Taher declared that it was time for the Red Devils to conquer Africa again after last winning the competition in 2013. “When we hired Martin Jol as coach, the objective was to win the Champions League and qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup,” Taher told the Egyptian media.”We last experienced Champions League success in 2013 and the time has come to conquer the continent again. The first match is always tricky,” he warned. “Zesco are a good team, as are the other six qualifiers for the group stage. We have studied them thoroughly because it is always important to start with a win.”

After lifting the trophy in 2012 and 2013, the Cairo Red Devils failed to reach the mini-league phase in the past two seasons after final qualifying round losses. And Zesco, who won five of their six qualifying matches, were not an easy prey. They were determined to win and were very energetic all through the match. On the other hand, Ahly as a team lacked a number of its key players due to injury and suffered a fragile defence line giving the opponents a golden chance to win at home. Injuries ruled out midfielder Abdullah Al-Said and attackers Amr Gamal and Gabonese Malick Evouna.

Also in Group A, Wydad Casablanca of Morocco won 1-0 away over Asec Mimosas of the Ivory Coast through Salaheddine Saidi’s header to give the Moroccans a great start as they seek a second title after lifting the trophy in 1992.

On the other hand, Zamalek of Egypt opened their African Champions League group campaign on Sunday with a 1-0 victory away to Enyimba of Nigeria.

Two-time African champions Enyimba hosted Zamalek in Port Harcourt, with the White Knights looking to win a sixth African Champions League crown.

Zamalek travelled to Nigeria with a new coach, Mohamed Helmi, who took over after former Scotland coach Alex McLeish parted ways with the Cairo giants after just two months.

They secured a 1-0 win over the Nigerian side thanks to an 8th minute goal from Basem Morsi and kept their net clean till the end.

Nigerians still have fresh memories of how the Egyptian giants forced bitter pills of defeats down their throats with two successive defeats suffered by Shooting Stars in the final of 1984 and 1996, while Enyimba prides itself in denying two North African clubs Ismaili and Etoile du Sahel to win in 2003 and 2004.

On Saturday night, South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns began their Group B campaign with a 2-0 win away to Algeria’s Entente Setif. Goals from Tiyani Mabunda and Zimbabwe’s Khama Billiat sealed their Group B victory over the 2014 African champions.

After their team’s loss the supporters failed to hide their frustration in the Setif stadium as missiles were thrown from the stands, with the referee stopping the game. Entente Setif might face sanctions from the Confederation of African Football following the crowd trouble.

Visiting Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa humbled ES Setif 2-0 in the Group B opener in the northeastern Algerian city of Setif Saturday evening.

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