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VIDEO: Ittihad snatch late equalizer against Shikabala’s Sporting Lisbon
Ittihad’s centennial anniversary was filled with celebrations, as dignitaries stepped on the field – from Al Ahly legend Mahmoud El-Khatib to their former star player Gedo – greeting and being greeted by the thousands of fans that flocked Alexandria Stadium, in a rare chance to see their team play.
With Shikabala being the centre of attention in the Sporting squad, the Lisbon team began livelier and they soon opened the scoreline. At the 6th minute, Junya Tanaka chipped the ball to João Mário, who volleyed the ball past goalkeeper Ali Farag and gave Sporting an early lead.
Ittihad struggled to gain space in Sporting’s area, not being able to create danger. However, at the 28th minute, Oumed Oukri past Sporting’s sleepy defense and took a shot, which deflected off Rui Patrício. The following corner was tapped into the back of the net by Oukri, allowing Ittihad to equalize and give the fans a burst of joy.
The rest of the first half was uneventful, with new Sporting signing Nabi Sarr heading the ball over the bar being the most noteworthy event.
The lack of action continued in the second half, with shots from both teams failing to threaten the goalkeepers. At the 64th minute, Shikabala came off for Héldon. Shika was upset, but proved his worth with a show of skill and near flawless distribution of play, despite of an apparent lack of understanding with his teammates.
Ittihad then had a pair of opportunities which could’ve seen them take the lead. At the 69th, an isolated Mohamed Hamdi failed to receive the ball properly and his chance went well over the bar. A few minutes later, Benzema’s long distance shot hit the side netting. In the following play, Oriol Rosell made a long pass to Héldon, who chipped the ball over Farag, but it went just wide of goal.
At the 82nd minute, Tanaka scored for Sporting with a well-placed shot. As the game was drawing to a close and inside injury time, Ittihad won a free-kick in the edge of the box. The shot hit the crossbar, and in the continuation of the play, a cross found substitute Ali Afifi, who headed the ball into the back of the net, giving the Ittihad fans a final burst of joy to their party.