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Honours shared in Cairo derby – Al Ahly finish top
Match: Al Ahly 1-1 Zamalek (Mohamed Ibrahim 43′, Mohamed Barakat 62′)
Competition: African Champions League 2012 – Group B
Venue: Borg El-Arab Stadium, Alexandria, Egypt
Al Ahly and arch rivals Zamalek drew 1-1 in another silent Cairo derby played behind closed doors. With Ghana’s Berekum Chelsea beating TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo 1-0 in the other group B match, Al Ahly finish top of the group and avoid a heated semi-final clash with North African rivals and defending champions Esperance of Tunisia.
The six-time champions Al Ahly finished one point ahead of TP Mazembe, and will now meet Sunshine Stars of Nigeria in the first leg of the semi-finals on the weekend of October 6th, then host the Nigerians in Egypt a fortnight later, while TP Mazembe will now play Esperance in the other semi-final with the first leg in Lubumbashi. Zamalek on the other hand end their dismal African adventure bottom of the group with only 2 points in a tournament they have previously won five times.
El-Badry opted to start without several key players, including Abou-Treika. With many other players missing due to injury or suspension, a depleted Ahly side took on the task of playing against a Zamalek team trying to restore some pride under new coach Jorvan Viera, who has led Iraq to winning the 2007 Asian Cup.
Zamalek starting XI: Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed; Mohamed Abdel-Shafy, Mahmoud Fathallah, Hany Said, Ahmed Samir; Alexis Mendomo, Ibrahim Salah, Islam Awad, Mohamed Ibrahim, Ahmed Hassan(Hazem Emam, 85′); Ahmed Gaafar (Abdoulaye Cisse, 59′).
Al Ahly starting XI: Sherif Ekramy; Sayed Moawad, Saad Samir, Rami Rabeia, Sherif Abdel-Fadil(Ahmed Sedik, 32′); Mahmoud Hassan ‘Trezeguet’, Hossam Ghaly, Ahmed Shokry (Mohamed Barakat, 48′), Gedo, Abdallah El-Saeid; Oussou Konan (Emad Metab, 78’)
Al Ahly’s starting line-up depended mainly on youth and fringe players with the surprise inclusion of winger Ahmed Shokry who spent last season on loan at Bani Suef Telephones. On the other hand, Zamalek’s 59-year old Brazilian coach Viera started with his strongest available line-up.
Zamalek had the upper hand in terms of possession and creativity in a drab first-half where chances were few and far in between. The tempo and rhythm of the match have clearly been affected as both teams crowded their midfield lines but were sluggish and continuously losing concentration.
Although there were no real goal-scoring opportunities to mention, Mohamed Ibrahim has been one of the top performers of the afternoon. He has caused havoc to Al Ahly backline with his pace and skill on the left flank. He single handedly put his side ahead two minutes before the break after he superbly cut inside Al Ahly defenders Ahmed Sedik, who replaced injured Sherif Abdel-Fadil, and Saad Samir to curl a low shot into the bottom left corner of Ekramy’s net.
Zamalek started the second half better and missed a host of chances to double their lead early in the half, as Cameroonian midfielder Alexis Mendomo forced an excellent save from Ekramy and veteran Ahmed Hassan scuffed a weak effort into the keeper’s hands from a one-on-one situation.
Hossam El-Badry changed personnel three minutes into the half by bringing on Mohamed Barakat for Ahmed Shokry, who had an afternoon to forget. Barakat came to the rescue in the 62nd minute after receiving a corner inside the box, his initial shot was blocked by the defense but his second attempt rocketed in off the bar and Al Ahly were level.
The match picked up pace and goal scoring opportunities for both sides went begging. Loss of focus coupled with some fitness concerns exposed the gaps in both teams’ formations. A good footed save by Ahly keeper Ekramy denied Abdel-Shafy, who himself created a fine chance for Cisse who came on for Gaafar but his header went over the bar. Oussou Konan acrobatically missed a bicycle kick yards from goal after superb build-up play from Al Ahly.
Minutes later, Ekramy was called into action once again, heroically tipping a wonderful curling free kick from central defender Mahmoud Fathallah onto the post.
Al Ahly squandered a number of chances, an excellent tackle from Hany Said denied Gedo but most notably Emad Metab, who came on for Konan, missed a glorious opportunity because of his hesitancy and indecision; scuffed his shot into Abdel-Wahed’s hands.
Both teams held firm in the dying minutes and shared the spoils in a match of two halves.
King Fut’s Man of the Match
Sherif Ekramy had one of his best matches in an Ahly shirt but our Man of the Match goes to Zamalek’s young attacking midfielder Mohamed Ibrahim. He was a constant threat to Al Ahly defense all afternoon with his skill and darting runs on the left flank.