Tuesday,21 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1442, (9 - 15 May 2019)
Tuesday,21 May, 2019
Issue 1442, (9 - 15 May 2019)

Ahram Weekly

Zamalek in the final

Egypt’s Zamalek have reached the final of the African Confederation Cup, reports Abeer Anwar

#photo: AFP #photo: Reuters
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Renaissance Berkane of Morocco and Zamalek of Egypt will face each other in the final of the 2019 African Confederation Cup after securing aggregate wins over Tunisian clubs CS Sfaxien and Etoile du Sahel.

Playing at home, Berkane shocked record three-time winners CS Sfaxien 3-0 in the semi-final second leg to qualify 3-2 on aggregate while Zamalek squeezed through 1-0 overall after a 0-0 draw at Etoile.

Zamalek and Berkane will thus meet in the final. The first leg match is on Sunday 19 May in Morocco and on Friday 24 May in Cairo. Until now it is not clear which stadium will host the second-leg after Cairo Stadium refused Zamalek’s request. Ali Darwish, head of Cairo Stadium Authority, said the stadium was not fully ready to host the final and is still being readied to host the opening match of the Africa Nations Cup to take place in June. “Of course we would like to host such big events but there are still a number of things missing. The pitch is fully ready but the stands, changing rooms and other small details are still being worked on,” Darwish said.

It will be Renaissance Berkane’s first appearance in an African final. Zamalek have never won the Confederation Cup but are five-time winners of the more prestigious African Champions League. Zamalek will be hoping to end a 16-year African trophy drought. Their last finals appearance was in 2016 in the Champions League.

In the second leg against Etoile, Zamalek had to play five minutes of stoppage time with 10 men after goalkeeper Mahmoud Gennesh was sent off. Gennesh was shown a second yellow card followed by a red when he handled outside the box. Because three substitutions had been used up, outfield player Omar Al-Said took Gennesh’s place between the posts but he was never tested.

Talking to a few Zamalek fans, Al-Ahram Weekly found unanimity that Gennesh was wrong to handle the ball outside the area. “I think Gennesh was in a bit of a hurry. He should have waited to see what will happen. I am very happy that Zamalek made it to the final at last but I think that the team’s sub goalkeeper Emad Al-Sayed has to be tried during the next two league matches to be ready for the final,” Asaad Mohamed said.

Another Zamalek supporter, Tarek Abu Shanab, said, “we as fans felt that the referee was against us and wanted to give the opponents a penalty so I think that is why Gennesh was afraid and went out to block it but he was supposed to do it with his feet not his hand. I am sure Zamalek will be able to get over the first leg match without Gennesh who will play the second leg in Cairo which is the more important for the team as they will play in front of their fans.”

Hazem Imam, Zamalek’s midfielder, said the players will do their best and fight for the Confederation Cup. “We did our best and our match against Etoile du Sahel was an early final. I am sure we will win but every Egyptian has to support us in the final round.”

Egypt’s Youth and Sports Minister Ashraf Sobhi congratulated Mortada Mansour, Zamalek’s president, in a phone call after reaching the final. Sobhi also hoped that the White Knights win the cup and recapture their winning ways in Africa.

“We failed to score in both legs so we shouldn’t expect a victory,” Roger Lemerre, Etoile du Sahel’s head coach, said in a press conference following the match. “Congratulations to Zamalek who deserve this qualification after a spectacular and consistent defensive style they played today. Today we failed to achieve the task at hand and that’s a big disappointment. That’s football, there’s a winner and a loser. We must turn our focus now to the domestic competition that will set us back on the track of victory,” Lemerre said.

Christian Gross, Zamalek’s Swiss head coach, said: “We knew in advance that it wasn’t going to be easy to qualify against Etoile du Sahel as they are a very good team. I’m happy that the goal we scored in Egypt gave us the qualification. I have to be fair. Tonight we needed a bit of luck but we defended like lions. I’m very happy for the players and our fans this evening,” Gross said.

Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim, Zamalek’s forward and better known as Kahraba, was the goal scorer of the sole goal in Cairo. “We are the winners. I congratulate my teammates as it was a long way to go and I think we did our best and this is the time to celebrate. We also thank our great fans who were backing us all the way. This is a wonderful present for them at the start of Ramadan. We are very happy to make it to the final and I hope we will be able to win it. Etoile du Sahel are a respectable team who did their best and a tough opponent that we tried hard to overcome.”

The first half collapse of Sfaxien in Berkane was unexpected given they had conceded only three goals in six previous away outings in the African version of the UEFA Europa League.

Togolese Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba converted an eighth-minute penalty to get Renaissance back into the tie after they performed poorly in a 2-0 first leg loss last weekend.

Omar Nemsaoui brought the second Berkane goal on 19 minutes to tie the aggregate score.

Burkinabe centre-back Issoufou Dayo sealed the win in the 31st minute.

Sfaxien players could have made it to the final if only they scored an away goal but although more experienced, they were blanked. They came closest to scoring with an hour gone when an Alaa Marzouki volley from inside the box flew just wide of the far post.

Berkane will hope to become the fifth Moroccan winners of the Confederation Cup after FAR Rabat (2005), FUS Rabat (2010), MAS Fes (2011) and Raja Casablanca (2018).

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