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CAF Champions League Review: Zamalek 0-1 Al Ahly
Al Ahly secured a crucial away victory in their quest for a seventh CAF Champions League title against their arch rivals Zamalek. Mohamed Abou Treika once again proved to be the deciding factor, 11 minutes from time, scoring a clinical header that separated the two sides in a drab encounter played at Cairo’s Military Academy Stadium behind closed doors. Cairo’s silent derby came in the most complex of times. No proper preparation. No domestic league. No fans in attendance. No security. The tempo and rhythm of the match have clearly been affected.
The 3 points cements Al Ahly’s position on top of Group B with maximum points after 2 wins from 2 matches, while leaving Zamalek bottom of the Group with 0 points and slim chances of qualification.
Zamalek starting XI: Abdel Wahed El-Sayed; Mohamed Abdel Shafy, Mahmoud Fathallah, Hamada Tolba, Ahmed Samir; Alexis Mendomo, Ibrahim Salah, Nour El-Sayed, Mohamed Ibrahim (Hazem Emam 76), Ahmed Hassan (Ahmed Gaafar 64); Abdoulaye Cisse (Islam Awad 71).
Al Ahly starting XI: Sherif Ekramy; Sayed Moawad, Mohamed Naguib, Sherif Abdel-Fadil, Ahmed Fathi; Hossam Ashour, Hossam Ghaly (Abdallah El-Said, 60), Mohamed Barakat (Gedo, 67), Walid Soliman, Mohamed Abou Treika (Mahmoud Hassan ‘Trezeguet’, 88); Emad Metab.
The two teams started cautiously though Zamalek were the better side in the first 15 minutes crowding the midfield but with no real attacking intent. Al Ahly settled down better after a shaky start and kept possession of the ball.
Sayed Moawad and Walid Soliman were lively on the left flank causing havoc to the Zamalek defense. Soliman was a continuous threat with some neat passes and he himself could have opened the scoring in the 13th minute but scuffed the ball wide. In the 30th minute Abou Treika saw his short range effort deflected wide after benefitting from some mix-up in the Zamalek defense.
Though Al Ahly dominated possession, it was Zamalek who had the clearer goal scoring opportunities in the final ten minutes of the first half exposing the gaps and defects in Al Ahly’s defense and beating the offside trap 3 key times. Alexis Mondomo played a superb chip to Ahmed Samir who was one-on-one with the goal keeper but his hesitancy and indecision let the chance go begging. Minutes later Samir was denied inside the box by a perfectly timed Walid Soliman tackle. Final chance of the half fell to Cisse after an excellent cross from Samir, however the Burkinabe striker miscued over the crossbar.
First real threat in the second half came from a neat Ahmed Fathi volley for Al Ahly but his shot went over the bar. Zamalek almost broke the deadlock twice in as many minutes when in the 58th minute, the talented attacking midfielder Mohamed Ibrahim shot just wide from the edge of the box after a great dribble past Ahly defender Sherif Abdel-Fadil. A minute later, only a good footed save by Ahly keeper Ekramy denied the youngster his second goal scoring chance.
After a brief stint of Zamalek supremacy, Hossam El Badry changed the game plan introducing Abdallah El-Said and Gedo for Hossam Ghaly and Baraket respectively. He resorted to playing with one defensive midfielder and his substitutions proved crucial. Abdallah El-Said instantly won a freekick on the edge of the box, which was taken superbly by Abou Treika but cleared off the line by the Zamalek defense.
Hassan Shehata tried to offset Al Ahly changes by bringing in a striker Ahmed Gaafar to replace Ahmed Hassan but crucially minutes later Cisse, who was excellent, got injured and replaced by midfielder Islam Awad. In the 77th minute, Zamalek Gaffer tried to inject more pace into his team by introducing Hazem Emam for Mohamed Ibrahim who had been one of Zamalek better performers on the night.
Eleven minutes from time, and after neat exchanges between Walid Soliman and substitute Abdallah El-Said, the latter sent a delightful cross for Abou Treika who rose between two defenders and slotted home a perfect header in the bottom left corner of Abdel Wahed’s net.
Al Ahly had serious penalty claims when Mahmoud Fathallah seemed to have pushed Walid Soliman inside the Zamalek box. Minutes later, fate was one their side this time as they were very lucky not to have Hossam Ashour sent off for a sloppy challenge that should have been second bookable offense.
Al Ahly held firm in the final minutes to secure a precious victory against their bitter rivals.
In a slow-paced lackluster affair that hardly reached the anticipated excitement of the ever-exciting Cairo derby, Al Ahly continued the recent domination against Zamalek. Hossam El Badry’s substitutions were key to the victory, while Shehata’s cautious strategy cost him his first taste of derby failure and put him under increased pressure. Mohamed Abou Treika further cemented his legendary status in the hearts of Al Ahly fans, and is now record goal scorer in Cairo derbies with 11 goals.
King Fut’s Man of the Match
With his speed, technique and darting runs on the flanks; he was a menace to the Zamalek defense all evening. His neat passes and whipping crosses, in addition to his excellent defensive duties on the night, make Walid Soliman our worthy Man of the Match.