Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1205, (10 - 16 July 2014)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1205, (10 - 16 July 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Business as usual

Ahli players, coaching staff and fans are in a jubilant mood after clinching the league title. Marawan Zayed reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Finally, after months of hard work and stoppages, the Egyptian league is over with holders, Ahli, retaining the league title after drawing the final game of the season against their main rivals Semouha 0-0.

While Semouha would have needed a win to secure the league title,  Ahli knew that one point was enough for them to clinch it.  Both teams were arguably the best two in the league this season and both deserved to play a league decider after winning their first two games in the “Four-Team League” against Zamalek and Petrojet.

The first game of the four-team league saw the unbelievably amazing Semouha thrash Petrojet by four goals to one in a game that could have ended in a much bigger score if Semouha had not missed several glorious chances near the end of the game after guaranteeing the three points.

The second game was the derby between the best two teams in the country and local rivals, Ahli and Zamalek. Both teams were pressured for results after Semouha destroyed Petrojet a few hours earlier, but it was Ahli who got away with all three minutes via a lucky own goal in a game that saw Zamalek’s reliable defender Mahmoud Fathalla miss a penalty kick. Due to the absence of fans, the game was dull and flat, not as electric as is usually the case in the Egyptian derby.

Ahli and their manager, Fathi Mabrouk, were the winners of the game as the team collected maximum points from their fierce rivals. Mabrouk was praised for involving no less than three young players in the match. All three had an excellent game and even played a pivotal role in the following two games. The second round of the four-team league saw Zamalek face Semouha in a must-win game if they were to keep their dream title alive. Unfortunately for Zamalek fans, the dream was over with the final whistle as Semouha defeated Zamalek 2-1 to all but kill their chances of finally winning the league.

On the other hand, six points out of six for Semouha meant they had a great chance of winning the league at that point. However, Ahli did not accept the idea of leaving everything in Semouha’s hand and reacted aggressively against Petrojet in a game that ended in a 4-0 win for Ahli, which meant that goal difference favoured Ahli if they just drew against Semouha in the league decider. Ahli scored five goals and conceded none in two games, while Semouha scored six goals and conceded two, which made them one short of Ahli’s goal difference prior to their league decider.

All eyes were on the game between Ahli and Semouha as this was the first time in years that Egyptian football and Egyptian fans witnessed a game that would decide the direction of the trophy. Ahli and their players seemed more than determined to retain the league title, while Semouha hoped to write history and create one of the biggest upsets in the history of Egyptian football. They already overachieved this season as they defeated Zamalek to the second place of the league and reached the African Champions League for the first time in their history.

Experience played its role in the league decider as Ahli players seemed very calm and relaxed during the game and never seemed in danger of losing. They controlled the game, missing a couple of chances early on and could have gone ahead more than once, but only a wrong flag from the assistant referee denied them clear-cut chances. On the other hand, Semouha’s game plan was all about the counter attack and long distance shots but the impressive Sherif Ekramy was always up to whatever came his way.

The second half saw Semouha create more chances as they knew they had nothing to lose, but once again Ekramy and the lack of cutting edge denied them the one goal that would win them the league. Ahli captain, Hossam Ashour, got sent off late in the game as Semouha tried to score a vital goal before Semouha’s Tarek Kamak saw red himself. A dramatic finale nearly took place as Semouha missed a glorious chance in the 97th minute as an amazing cross by Alaa Ali just evaded Semouha’s striker to all but announce Ahli as champions.

Sixteen players out of the Ahli squad are champions for the first time in their careers, while Fathi Mabrouk is the 10th Egyptian manager to win the league title with Ahli. Congratulations to Ahli and their fans and hard luck for the amazing Semouha side and their terrific fans. 

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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