Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1352, (13 - 19 July 2017)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1352, (13 - 19 July 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Glee and gloom

Ahly march on while Zamalek bow out of Africa, reports Marawan Zayed

 

Ahly’s striker Gamal celebrates with his teammates after his two goals

The two Egyptian football giants Ahly and Zamalek are taking completely different paths these days with one of them going forward while the other going backwards and downwards.

After clinching the Egyptian domestic football league title, Hossam Al-Badri’s men finished off the job in the African Champions League as they swept away Coton Sport of Cameroon 3-1 to qualify to the quarter-finals along with group leaders Wydad Casablanca of Morocco that defeated Zanaco 1-0 in the final round to qualify with 12 points. The Egyptian giants qualified with 11 points, tied with Zambia’s Zanaco, but thanks to their superior goal difference they edged Zanaco to the next round.

It is extremely rare to find a team that finishes its group matches with 11 points but fails to qualify for the next round. That’s why you can easily feel sorry for Zanaco which led the group for most of the way. But at least the two other Arab teams in the group made it to the next round.


Zamalek’s Morsi tries to save the ball

Going back to Ahly and Coton Sport, the Egyptian side weren’t great to be honest and the story could have been much different if it wasn’t for the goalkeeper of the opponents who was really poor in the game and played a big role in the qualification of the Egyptian side. The visitors took a shocking lead in the 12th minute after a lapse in concentration across the back four allowed Coton’s Kombous to score in style.

However, the home side responded instantly as Amr Gamal’s tame shot from 25 yards somehow found its way to the back of the net as the goalkeeper looked on as if he wasn’t even paying attention to the game. We don’t need to guess that the Cairo home fans, players and coaching staff didn’t care about how the goal was scored as long as it meant their African dream was back on track.

The equaliser should have given the players the much needed boost to push forward but surprisingly they didn’t do so and circulated the ball in boring fashion until Abdullah Al-Said who was having a very bad game came up with one moment of magic to give his team the lead in the 33rd minute. A great give and go with Momen Zakaria inside the box saw the playmaker finish emphatically in the far corner leaving the goalkeeper with absolutely no chance much to the delight of the tens of thousands of fans in the stadium.


Scenes of riot after Zamalek’s loss

The remaining first half saw the home side come close to scoring a third goal on several occasions but the attacking trio of Agayi, Zakaria and Gamal failed to take their chances with Agayi in particular having a very bad day in front of the goal, guilty of missing a clear cut chance 30 seconds before the visitors took the lead but thankfully his attacking partner Gamal came to the rescue a few minutes later.

The second half saw Gamal rise before the goalkeeper to extend the lead via a great header after a perfect free kick pass from the influential Ali Maaloul. Once again the goalkeeper can easily be blamed as he came out late and got back to his goal only to collect the ball out of the net. The game was over at that point and the scoreline could have been bigger as the home side missed a host of chances until the referee blew his whistle sending the Egyptian champions to the next round.

On the other hand, Egypt’s Zamalek, the White Knights who reached the final last year, kissed their dream of winning the African Champions League goodbye after an embarrassing African campaign came to an end at the hands of another Arab team in the form of Libyan side Al-Ahly, after the game ended in a 2-2 draw in Borg Al-Arab Stadium in Egypt.

Going into the last round, Zamalek knew they had to win their game as well as see USM Alger defeat Zimbabwe’s CAPS United to qualify with USM Alger to the next round. The Egyptian side started perfectly and took the lead through their main striker Bassem Morsi, thanks to an excellent header from Mohamed Nassef’s pinpoint cross in the 14th minute. The goal gave Morsi’s teammates confidence as they pushed forward and missed a few half chances with the visitors failing to get into the game following the goal they conceded.

In the 36th minute Zamalek fans celebrated wildly in the stands as USM Alger took the lead against United which meant that Zamalek was heading to the next round as things stood. Surprisingly and instead of looking for a second goal to kill the game, Zamalek players started to slow down the game and the visitors started to pressure them high on the pitch until the pivotal moment of the game came in the 45th minute when Mahmoud Hamdi saw a red card and which also resulted in a penalty to the visitors. Star man Saltou slotted the ball home with ease to send the Libyan fans at the stadium crazy and flip the game on its head.

A mad last minute in the first half meant Zamalek started the second half facing an uphill task as they had to win with 10 men against a team that grew in confidence in the last 10 minutes of the first half. As expected, Zamalek started the second half poorly and short of confidence until their goalkeeper Ahmed Al-Shinnawi committed a fatal mistake that allowed the brave visitors to take the lead via their African striker Mabide. A corner kick for Zamalek in the 69th minute was cleared forward by Ahly defenders and for some reason Al-Shinnawi decided to leave his goal and run 40 yards to intercept the ball from Mabide only to find the striker lobbing him from the distance.

The second goal looked to be the final bullet for the home side as they seemed shell shocked and completely out of sorts until their Nigerian midfielder Youssef Maarouf scored with a lovely header in the 75th minute to give his team a renewed chance of making it to the next round knowing that USM Alger were leading 2-0 in their game with United. Nevertheless, the remaining 15 minutes of the game in addition to the five added minutes saw the visitors miss at least six or seven clear cut chances as the home side pushed forward and were all over the place at the back.

The home side didn’t show the kind of spirit needed to win the game while the visitors fought extremely hard to leave the game with the vital point that gave them qualification to the round of eight for the first time in their history under the guidance of their terrific Egyptian manager Talaat Youssef who managed to do the impossible and shock the African and Egyptian giants and go through at their expense.

The coming days could see Zamalek’s Portuguese coach Augusto Inacio fired by Zamalek Club President Mortada Mansour as some reports said even before the game.

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