Ramadan Tales E7: The 2007 Egypt Cup Final
Derby matches. Matches between eternal rivals, more than a game of football. Matches which can divide cities, matches which can divide nations. Matches which every player dreams of being apart of growing up. Real Madrid vs Barcelona. Manchester United vs Liverpool. Inter vs AC Milan. River Plate vs Boca Juniors. Intense battles fought out on the football pitch for much more than 3 points. Ties which can make or break a clubs season, clashes which can make instant heroes or villains of the players involved. There are some insane derbies around the world, but only few can compare to the pandemonium that an Al Ahly vs Zamalek match can bring. The Cairo Derby showcases a rivalry which has been around since the early days of Egyptian football, pitting Al Ahly, FIFA African Club of the 20th Century, and cross town rivals Zamalek – the top two sides in African football by a mile – against each other, often with awe inspiring results. Today we re-live one of the greatest Cairo Derbies of recent times, possibly one of the greatest of all time for that matter. The 2007 Egyptian Cup Final.
The 2nd of July 2007, 8 years ago to the very day. Cairo International Stadium, host stadium of the 2007 Egyptian Cup Final; 110,000 capacity crowd, half sporting the vivid red of Al Ahly, the other half sporting the bright white of Zamalek. The Red Devils vs The White Knights. A match which will go down in the history of Egyptian football as one of the most entertaining ever seen. The road to the final was a tough journey for both sides involved, with Al Ahly overcoming Petrojet, Tala’a El Geish and Ismaily earlier in the competition, whilst Zamalek beat off competition from Mansoura and Petrol Assiout on their side of the draw. The match was supercharged with tension, with Al Ahly aiming to complete the League/Cup double with a win, having beaten eternal rivals Zamalek to the league title just 7 days earlier.
Al Ahly XI – Amir Abdel-Hamid, Emad El Nahhas, Shady Mohamed, Ahmed El Sayed, Islam El-Shater, Mohamed Shawky, Hossam Ashour, Mohamed Barakat, Mohamed Aboutrika, Emad Meteb, Flavio
Zamalek XI – Mohamed Abdel Monsef, Wael Al Qubbany, Amr El Safty, Wissam Abdi, Ahmed Ghanem, Alaa Abdel Ghani, Tamer Abdel Hamid, Tarek El Sayed, Hazem Emam, Gamal Hamza, Amr Zaki
The first half started off in electric fashion, with both sides looking to gain the early advantage. End to end play, mixed with the passion of the players for their respective clubs and the flare of the capacity crowd in the stadium made for good watching, and it was Zamalek who threatened early on. The first chance of the match came after a cross into the Al Ahly box from the right wing, which was smartly cleared by Shady Mohamed, a stalwart of the Al Ahly defence over the years, resulting in a Zamalek corner. Aboutrika and Flavio came close for Al Ahly midway through the half, with the latter having the closest chance of the half, with his right footed curling effort going just wide of the post. Goalless at the break, and although there were no goals in the tie at this point, the second half promised to show some action, from both sides.
Play resumed in the second half, with the crowd urging both of their respective sides on, with Al Ahly and Zamalek both craving the opening goal of the match to ease the tension. It wasn’t long until the break through, and it was Zamalek who drew first blood. In the 50th min, Zamalek keeper Mohamed Abdel Monsef hoofed a long ball down the field after pressure on a backs from Al Ahly talisman at the time Emad Meteb. The long ball, which looked destined to be cleared by the Al Ahly defence, bounced just outside the 18 yard box. With Amir Abdel-Hamid off his line, confusion reigned in the Al Ahly defence, with Shady Mohamed not sure whether to clear the ball, and the keeper not sure of catching it due to the possible clearance. A lightning quick Amr Zaki pounced, with a driving run in behind the defence, heading home the ball after the bounce to send the Zamalek fans into raptures. The goal seemingly opened the floodgates though, with Al Ahly steadily gaining momentum going forward in search of an equaliser. Mohamed Aboutrika missing a glorious chance to level the game in the 54th minute, finding himself free on the penalty spot, with his effort ultimately flying over the crossbar.
Al Ahly soon had their goal though, with Emad Meteb scoring a belter in the 57th minute. A long ball forward from the Al Ahly defence was flicked on by Flavio to Metab in space, who stood strong and shrugged off the Zamalek defender, rifling an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net from just inside the 18 yard box past the desperately outstretched hand of Zamalek custodian Abdel Monsef. Aboutrika, the focal point of all of Al Ahly’s attacks at this point, then squandered another golden opportunity to put the Reds ahead, with Abdel Monsef making a smart save with his feet to deny the Al Ahly legend after some smart interplay from Flavio.
In the 67th minute, against the run of play, Zamalek gained the upper hand again, and in stunning fashion. Substitute Shikabala received the ball outside the Al Ahly box, swiftly shifting on to his favoured left foot past two Al Ahly defenders. The Zamalek talisman then hit a glorious dipping shot from 22 yards out, past the diving Abdel-Hamid and into the bottom right hand corner of the net, 2-1, and with less than 20 minutes to play, it was all hands on deck for the Whites, aiming to stop Al Ahly from completing the League/Cup double.
Zamalek fans had their hearts in their mouths a few moments later, after substitute Osama Hosny went through on goal, with just Abdel Monsef there to stop the Ahly striker from bringing his team back into the game. Hosny, who would turn out to be pivotal later on in the match, inexplicably missed the one on one chance with no oncoming pressure from the Zamalek defence from seven yards out. Time was running out, and Zamalek were only moments away from a famous victory. But as is the case in a lot of these situations, legends make their mark, often bringing their sides from the brink of defeat. In the 88th minute, Emad Meteb received the ball in the box and turned to play a pass to Shawky, who was running into the penalty area. Some dismal defence from Zamalek allowed the defensive midfielder to slip a pass through to an unmarked Aboutrika at the far post, who swept home with a swift right footed shot to equalise the game and turn joy into despair for the Zamalek fans. Two all it remained, and with extra time beckoning, the match was headed for yet even more excitement.
With everything to play for, extra time started with a bang, with both sides trading attacking blows in the search for the elusive winner. Ten minutes in, Zamalek thought they had it. After a cool switch of play from the middle of the park to the right wing, Shikabala played a low ball into the unmarked Gamal Hamza on the edge of the 18 yard box. A beautiful first touch opened up the chance for Hamza, who sent a missile into the top right corner of the net past Abdel-Hamid. The Whites headed into the break with the advantage, 15 minutes away from the win, 15 minutes away from the Egyptian Cup title.
Al Ahly had other ideas though, and as quickly as Zamalek had gained confidence, they were again deflated. In the 106th minute Aboutrika found himself in a pocket of space in the middle of the park, and with no pressure from the Zamalek defence, he was able to slip a trademark lofted through ball into the penalty area to Osama Hosny. Hosny, who had missed an absolute sitter in regulation time for his side, made amends and finished with a cool header past the oncoming Abdel Monsef.
Advantage Red, and it only got better from there for the Ahlawy side of the country. Less than two minutes later, the match was effectively sealed. Aboutrika, again at the centre of things, slipped in a delightful ball through the Zamalek defence. The resulting cross from the wing by another substitute – Ahmed Seddik – was met by Hosny for his second headed goal of the game, and Al Ahly’s fourth, to make the score 4-3. Zamalek threw the kitchen sink at Al Ahly in the final few minutes, with Shikabala going close late on after his mesmerising run resulted in a shot going wide of the post. Amr Zaki received his marching orders in the 121st minute to further compound the miseries of the Zamalek fans, with Al Ahly holding on toe record one of the most famous victories in Egyptian footballing history. A match to be remembered.
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