Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1303, (14 - 20 July 2016)
Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Issue 1303, (14 - 20 July 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Drab draw

On the last day of the season, Ahly and Zamalek produced a sterile derby, reports Marawan Zayed

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Al-Ahram Weekly

It’s safe to say that Ahly and Zamalek on Saturday played one of the worst derbies in the last decade as both teams concluded their season with a boring goalless draw. Even though Ahly had sealed the title a few weeks ago, it was still expected that the game would live up to expectations, as always. Prior to the game, Zamalek fans were determined to see their team beat their fiercest rivals to slightly make up for failing to retain the league title while Ahly fans wanted their team to ensure it would be a season to remember by beating Zamalek in the last game of the season.

However, both sets of fans were let down by their teams as the game was ugly, boring and lacked intensity big time as if both teams wanted no more than a draw. Apart from some half chances here and there the game did not witness any real chances for any of the teams and both goalkeepers could have easily skipped the game and stayed home. Ayman Hefni and Mohamed Ibrahim came closest for Zamalek but awful finishing meant Ahmed Adel was not tested and both chances went begging.

Zamalek started the game better than the new league champions as they fielded an attacking side with Mahmoud Kahraba, Hefni and Ibrahim playing behind Bassem Morsi who led the line for his team. The 4-2-3-1 formation by Zamalek’s manager Mohamed Helmi was clearly aiming to attack the seemingly exhausted defence of Ahly but failed to do so as Morsi and Kahraba did not have a good day at the office. Hefni and Ibrahim tried to make things happen but Ahly defenders were up to the occasion and limited the danger of the skillful duo.

Substitute Mustafa Fathi made a big impression when he came on and set up Ibrahim for a good chance but a very tame shot saw Adel save without even moving. Fathi himself should have done better when he received the ball inside the box in the dying seconds of the game but placed his shot badly as Rami Rabea cleared before the ball reached Ibrahim at the far post.

As for Ahly, Dutch coach Martin Jol started the game in a 4-3-3 formation with Mo’men Zakaria and Walid Suleiman supporting Amr Gamal who led the line, making his first start in 11 games. This attacking trio should have caused plenty of problems for the opponents but all three looked jaded and off form. Substitute Ramadan Sobhi set up Hossam Ghali for a decent chance but the captain failed to find the back of the net while the other substitute John Antoi tried his best to score but lacked service and did not get any chance to test Ahmed Al-Shenawi. Some fans gave Ahly players an excuse for their uninspiring performance: they clearly had the African Champions League group stage on their minds as they face an uphill task to qualify to the semi-finals after losing the first two games. In the same tournament but a different group, Zamalek won their first game away from home against Enyimba of Nigeria before their group was reduced to three clubs when Alegira’s side ES Setif were kicked out of the competition due to crowd trouble. Meaning Zamalek have pretty much put one leg in the semis.

Despite the poor draw, there were some positive takeaways for each team. Jol can be pleased with the steady performance of Adel who looked confident in spite of playing very few games this season.

Second, the performance of Ahmed Hegazi and Rabea was top notch as both Ahly defenders were focussed and did not give the opponents even a sniff on goal. Their return to form after a difficult period will surely please Jol.

Third and maybe this is what matters the most to Ahly fans is that even though the performance was not good and even though some key players missed the game for various reasons, Ahly still managed to prevent their opponents from beating them for the first time in nine years. This alone gave Ahly fans distinct satisfaction.

As for Zamalek, Helmi showed that he’s more than capable of leading the club to glory. Helmi came out on top against Jol in terms of tactics and match management even if his team failed to win. Second, the skillful duo of Ibrahim and Hefni linked up with each other in exceptional fashion which surely must have pleased Helmi. Finally, the confident performance against the Egyptian champions is exactly what Zamalek needed before playing in the Egyptian Cup and their second game in the group stage in the African Champions League.

Helmi surely believes he can lead his team to the African championship while Jol and his team will need a minor miracle to make it to the semi-finals after losing the first two games.

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