It’s fair to say that this week could not have been better for Egyptian teams playing African football as Ahly, Zamalek, Pyramids and Masri all won their games.
Ahly collected their first points in the second game of the group stage of the African Champions League when they defeated Sudan’s Al Hilal 2-1 at home in game that should have witnessed more goals from the home side as Rene Weiler’s men missed a host of chances throughout the 90 minutes.
Hussein Al-Shahat scored the opener in the 14th minute with a close-range volley from Afsha’s brilliant pass. From that point it was one-way traffic as the Egyptian giants dominated the game and missed a few sitters until they added a second in the 37th minute through Ramadan Sobhi from the penalty spot. The second goal supposedly killed the game for the visitors who gave up and didn’t do much to get back into the game until the referee blew his whistle ending the first half.
A complacent second half performance from the home side saw Al Hilal grow in confidence as they started to attack more and came close on several occasions in a very open second half. Al Hilal managed to pull one back with the last kick of the game in the 98th minute to confirm that Weiler still has work to do after a shaky second half performance especially with his defence.
The other game of the group saw Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia sweep aside Zimbabwe’s FC Platinum by beating them 3-0 away from home. The away side played a perfect game to show they mean business this year as they now top the group with six points from two games, scoring four goals and conceding none. Al Hilal and Ahly both have three points from two games now, but the Sudanese side sit second on goal difference as they scored three and conceded three. Ahly have scored two and conceded two. FC Platinum sit bottom of the group with zero points.
Still in the Champions League, Zamalek followed Ahly and collected their first points of the group as well after beating Primero de Agosto of Angola 2-0 thanks to Ashraf ben Sharki’s brilliant double. The first goal of the game came in the 16th minute when Youssef Obama’s splendid pass sent Ben Sahrki one on one with the keeper and the Moroccan attacker coolly slotted the ball home to give the White Knights the lead.
The second goal of the night came in the 68th minute and what a goal that was. Once again, the Moroccan was the star of the moment as he received the ball a few yards outside the box and unleashed a brilliant volley almost in the top corner much to the relief of the fans, players and coaching staff.
The second goal killed any hopes for the visitors to get back into the game and ensured the home side are back to winning ways.
The other game of the group ended in a 2-1 win for TP Mazembe of DR Congo over Zambia’s Zesco away from home which meant the Egyptian giants moved to second in the group with three points from two games, behind Mazembe who collected maximum points from their two games. Zesco and Primero de Agosto are third and fourth respectively with one point each.
Leaving the Champions League and moving to the continent’s second tier football tournament, the CAF Confederation Cup, Pyramids recorded their second win in a row as they demolished Mauritania’s Nouadhibou by beating them 6-0 in Cairo to send a strong message to the rest of the teams in the competition. Mohamed Farouk and Eric Traore scored a brace each while John Antwi and Wilfried Kanon added the other two strikes to send their side top of the group on goal difference with the other Egyptian side Masri in second.
Masri played another magnificent game as well as they defeated Enogu Rangers of Nigeria 4-2 at home in a score that flattered the visitors. The home side were 4-0 up and could have been 10-0 up if not more as they missed at least seven or eight clear cut chances before conceding two very late strikes in the 87th minute and 90th minute. The Egyptian side scored their goals in the fifth, 27th, 48th and 83rd minutes respectively in what was described as a perfect attacking display by their manager Ihab Galal despite missing so many chances.
Pyramids are now top of the group with six points scoring nine goals and conceding only one while Masri are second with six points as well, scoring seven and conceding four. An all-Egyptian clash in the next round promises to be very exciting.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 12 December, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.