Wednesday,18 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1308, (18 -24 August 2016)
Wednesday,18 October, 2017
Issue 1308, (18 -24 August 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Zamalek move up, Ahly fall down

Zamalek are going to the semi-finals of the 2016 African Champions League while Ahly have been eliminated, Abeer Anwar reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Gabonese-import Fabrice Ondama scored a late winner to help Wydad Athletic Club to a 2-1 win over ASEC Mimosas on Sunday in Rabat and seal their place at the semis, together with Zambia’s Zesco United, in the 2016 African Champions League.

In the same tournament, five-time African champions Zamalek beat Enyimba of Nigeria away in their return match in Cairo, guaranteeing their progress to the semi-finals.

Victory for the Casablanca-based club took their tally to 10 points and top spot of Group A, two more than Zesco, who held Egypt’s Ahly to a 2-2 draw in Suez. Ahly follow in that order with five points and ASEC on four.

With just a game remaining, Wydad and Zesco are certain to finish among the top two irrespective of the outcome of the final day matches in a fortnight, handing both passage into the last four, with the Zambians reaching that far for the first time.

In this mini-league head-to-head records count in the event of a tie.

Ahly, who needed maximum points to keep up their hopes of progressing, are out of the proceedings. They dominated possession for much of the match in Alexandria. But Zesco, looking for a first semi-finals appearance, were quick on the counter-attack, and frustrated the Egyptians who are managed by former Tottenham boss Martin Jol.

Kenya’s Jesse Were took advantage to nod the Zambians into a sixth-minute lead but Rami Rabia was able to level on the half hour.

Were struck again five minutes later, hitting the ball across goalkeeper Ahmed Adel’s goal into the far corner.

Veteran striker Emad Meteb was brought on in the second half and snatched an 85th-minute equaliser for the Egyptians. But it was not enough as the record eight-time African champions were eliminated.

In Group B, Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa won the group thanks to three consecutive victories.

Zamalek finished second in the group after edging Enyimba 1-0. A draw would have been enough to qualify to the semis but the players made sure of advancing in front of their fans who packed Petro Sport Stadium to secure three points after Bassem Morsi got the winner from a penalty kick in the 63rd minute.

Zamalek ended the group stage with six points, three behind Sundowns. Two-time winner Enyimba are pointless after two matches.

After a dream start with an away 1-0 victory against Enyimba in Port Harcourt, the Egyptians suffered back to back defeats to Sundowns.

Zamalek went into Monday’s match with their morale high after clinching a fourth Egyptian Cup in a row. The Cairo-based club ousted arch rivals Ahly 3-1 in Alexandria last week to claim their 25th Egyptian Cup title, and save their domestic season after Ahly edged them to the league title.

Zamalek have interim coach Moamen Suleiman to thank for their recent successes. The club’s sixth manager in their roller-coaster season has won his two games since taking over, including the Egyptian Cup triumph at the expense of eternal rivals Ahly.

“I’m in dreamland,” an elated Suleiman told CAFonline.com. “I never dreamt of coaching Zamalek, and winning a trophy with the team in just a week. I hope this dream lasts for a very long time.”

Leading Zamalek against Enyimba means Suleiman is their third coach in the CAF Champions League. Scotsman Alex McLeish began the campaign before giving way to Mohamed Helmi. The former was sacked following the defeat against Sundowns, and former midfielder Suleiman was named his shock replacement.

As the search for a substantive coach intensifies, Suleiman could just grant the White Knights their most sought after gift by guiding them to the CAF Champions League semi-final, a stage Zamalek hasn’t reached since 2005.

Zamalek are seeking to win Africa’s most prestigious club competition for the first time since 2002.

“We did our best to win this match. We didn’t want to leave anything to chance. I believed we were able to do it and we did,” Suleiman said.

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