Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1429, (7 - 13 February 2019)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1429, (7 - 13 February 2019)

Ahram Weekly

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Egyptian football powerhouses Ahly and Zamalek face tough challenges as they prepare for more matches in the two top African club championships, reports Inas Mazhar

 

Ahly’s Hussein El-Shahat in possession of the ball                                                     photo: Essam Shoukry
Ahly’s Hussein El-Shahat in possession of the ball photo: Essam Shoukry

On Tuesday 12 February Ahly will meet Simba of Tanzania in their second-leg away match of the African Champions League. The match is scheduled to take place at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam. The following day, Zamalek will take on Nasr Athletic Hussein Dey of Algeria at Borg Al-Arab Stadium in their second group game of the African Confederations Cup.

Earlier in the week, Ahly thrashed Simba 5-0 in just 40 minutes to lead Group D. The Red Devils proved too strong for their Tanzanian visitors as they battered them in Alexandria on Saturday as the mini-league stage reached the halfway mark.

It was a spectacular first half performance in which Ahly scored all five goals. The record eight-time champions top the group with seven points, three clear of second placed AS Vita of DR Congo. Simba have three points and Algeria’s JS Saoura are on two points.

Just two minutes into the game, Ahly broke the deadlock with an Amr Al-Soleya header. Tunisia’s Ali Maaloul netted Ahly’s second while Junior Ajayi from Nigeria made it 3-0. Four minutes later Karim Walid, or Nedved, scored a brace for an insurmountable lead at the half.

Unlike the speedy first half, the second was slower as it seemed that both teams had run out of fuel. The 12,000 Ahly fans, who never stopped supporting their team, saw few attempts at goal.

Following the match, Ahly Head Coach Martin Lasarte of Uruguay told the media that he was pleased with his team’s performance and the victory.

“My team played very well in the first half and scored five goals. Accordingly, this performance and the goals we scored made us comfortable and allowed us to make some changes. We pulled off players who have yellow cards and gave the chance to the players who had just returned from injury.

“It was the early goal in the match that opened the gate for the team to score more goals in the first half which became an open game. With this result Ahly achieved their goal which was winning the game. However, the competition is still on and hasn’t finished because there are still other difficult matches to go.

“After we took the 5-0 lead in the first half, it was important for us to advise the players not to go all-out for the rest of the game, to take it easy but still be cautious in order to save their energy for future matches.

Simba’s Head Coach Patrick Aussens said this was what they had expected before the match, that it will not be an easy game against the continent’s giants.

“As I said before, we didn’t expect it to be an easy game and we knew that we were going to face a great team who were more experienced than us. The first goal was a killer as it was scored just two minutes into the game. Then it was very easy for them to come further and we had problems, in the right, in the middle and in the left.

“We must congratulate Ahly for the first half. I spoke to my players at half-time and they said they can’t lose the second half. But, we couldn’t [do more] because Ahly played a great game and despite the changes they made, we were still unable to score.

“We still have some home matches ahead, exactly three games to go, two of them at home and one away match and you know at home we are a different team in front of 50,000 or 60,000 fans. We are meeting Ahly next week and it will be different and we still have chances to qualify because we consider today’s result between Vita Club and Saoura a good one and in our favour,” Aussens said.

In the other Group D match, AS Vita were held to a 2-2 draw by visiting Saoura in Kinshasa.

While Ahly fans celebrated their team’s impressive victory, Zamalek were at the short end of a heavy defeat as they were knocked down by Kenya’s Gor Mahia 4-2 in their opening CAF Confederations Cup Group D match in Nairobi.

Despite the defeat, it was Zamalek who took the lead when Ibrahim Hassan scored in the seventh minute before Boniface Omondi’s levelled the score for the home team 19 minutes later. It was Jacques Tuyisenge’s brilliant header that took the hosts ahead in the game.

However, Zamalek’s Hassan cancelled Gor’s celebrations as he netted the equaliser for 2-2 at half-time.

The home team then took their visitors by surprise, returning to the second half stronger and more determined, regaining their lead in the 51st minute with Tuyisenge sending home Gor’s third before the team’s superstar and legendary Dennis Oliech slammed the fourth in added time.

It was Dennis Oliech who had written his name in football folklore on Sunday evening, scoring exactly 21 years after his brother Steve Okumu scored against Zamalek. According to cafonline, Okumu scored as Gor beat Zamalek 1-0 in Nairobi in 1998 and his younger brother, making his continental debut for K’Ogalo, scored the fourth in Gor’s entertaining win at Kasarani Stadium.

He celebrated in the exact same way his late brother did. “I dedicate this goal to my late brother. I knew I would come on and score and I wanted to celebrate in the exact same way he did. I am happy that we won. It is not about me but my team and I am pleased with the result. This is behind us now and we focus on the next game,” Oliech said in the post-match press conference.

“I was expecting this win because we did some good homework on Zamalek and watched their game against Pyramids (in the Egyptian league) and two other teams. We knew the way they play and tactically we were ready for them. I knew we could get something and I am happy with the players,” Oliech noted.

Zamalek’s Swiss Coach Christian Gross said they started the wrong way “but this is just one group stage game. We had the advantage of an early goal but we ended up conceding because of a lapse of concentration in defence.”

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