Friday,27 April, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1336, (16 - 22 March 2017)
Friday,27 April, 2018
Issue 1336, (16 - 22 March 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Africa’s long road

Four Egyptian football clubs start their round of 32 first leg games in the continent’s major championships

Africa’s long road
Africa’s long road

Smouha of Egypt played a dazzling match in the CAF Confederation Cup beating Kenya’s Ulinzi Stars 4-0 in their 32-round first leg match in Alexandria’s 85,000-seat Borg El-Arab Stadium. The result could have been even better for the Egyptians but for a string of superb saves by goalkeeper James Saruni. Ahmed Raouf scored for Smouha early and Islam Mohareb doubled the lead before half-time. In the second half, Smouha’s Mahmoud Abdel-Aziz grabbed a third goal and Mohareb the fourth to give Alexandrian fans a night not to forget where celebrations extended to the early hours of dawn. Smouha’s coach Moamen Suleiman who guided Zamalek to the CAF Champions League final last season, expressed his happiness. “We were up to the challenge and we did our best. I hope we will be able to continue in the same way. I thank my players and I promise I will do my best to be able to push the team to the top.”

In the same championship, Masri of Egypt was not as good. They will need to overcome a two-goal deficit in the Confederation Cup round of 32 return leg after losing 2-0 to Mali’s Djoliba in Bamako. Djoliba took the lead through Seydou Diallo from the spot in the 16th minute before adding a second before the break on the stroke of half-time.

The Port Said side piled on the pressure after the break in an attempt to narrow the gap, but could not reduce the arrears before heading into the return leg on 18 March.

In the Champions League, eight-time winners Ahli of Egypt launched their 2017 campaign with a 1-0 home win over Wits of South Africa at El-Salam Stadium in Cairo.

Ahmed Hegazi, the former Fiorentina defender who starred with the Egyptian national team at the Africa Cup of Nations, scored the winner on 57 minutes in the first leg of a last-32 tie, allowing Ahly to head into the return leg in Johannesburg with an albeit uncomfortable lead.

Ahli’s coach Hossam Al-Badri praised Bidvest Wits’ performance. “Ahly played a good team full of [good] qualities, but we could have scored more if we’d had more luck,” Al-Badri told his club’s website following the home game.

“Ahly have a good chance to make it into the group stage because the opponents will attack and allow us to take advantage of their spaces using our qualities and experience. But, nothing is guaranteed in football,” he added.

Bidvest Wits, whose only continental appearances were at three Confederation Cups, host the Red Devils next week on 17 March.

Last season’s Champions League runners-up Zamalek of Egypt beat Nigerian league holders Enugu Rangers in the competition’s round of 32 first leg at Cairo’s El-Salam Stadium 4-1.

Zamalek broke the deadlock after just eight minutes through Stanley, who converted Osama Ibrahim’s corner, before Hossam Paulo took advantage of an error by Ranger’s defence and doubled the lead in the 28th minute. Five minutes later, Ayman Hefni scored a brilliant chip to make 3-0, and then Mustafa Fathi made 4-0 in the 53rd minute from the penalty spot.

The Nigerian side pulled one back through Bobby Clement in the 82nd minute.

Having failed to clinch their sixth Champions League trophy when they succumbed to a 3-1 aggregate defeat to South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns last season, Zamalek were trying their best this time to Enugu whose best continental achievement was finishing as African Cup of Champions Clubs runners-up in 1975.

Enugu Rangers’ name is quite familiar to Egyptian football fans after the team famously ousted Ahly from the 2003 CAF Cup quarter-finals with a 4-0 aggregate win. Enugu Rangers will host the whites on 19 March at Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu.

Zamalek was boosted by 5,000 fans cheering them on from the stands. Zesco United of Zambia and Mouloudia Alger of Algeria used home advantage to build 2-0 leads in the African Champions League matches overcoming Le Messager Ngozi of Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo club Renaissance.

Former African title-holders Esperance of Tunisia and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco also used home advantage to build leads ahead of return matches next weekend. The 2015 Champions League runners-up USM Alger of Algeria defeated Rail Kadiogo of Burkina Faso 2-0 in Algiers while Young Africans of Tanzania and Zanaco of Zambia drew 1-1 in Dar es Salaam.

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