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Saturday, 22 February 2020

All are well

Egypt’s four football clubs are doing remarkably well in Africa’s top two championships, reports Inas Mazhar

Inas Mazhar , Tuesday 14 Jan 2020
Zamalek’s player tackling Zesco for the ball
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Views: 168

 It was quite a weekend for the four Egyptian clubs Ahly, Zamalek, Masri and Pyramids, who are representing the country in Africa’s two elite football competitions, the Champions League and the Confederation Cup.

In the Champions League in Group A after four games and two remaining, TP Mazembe of DR Congo have the lead with 10 points followed by Egypt’s Zamalek with seven. Agosto and Zezco United have two apiece.

In Group B, Etoile of Tunisia are atop with nine points. Egypt’s Ahly are in second with seven points. Hilal of Sudan are third with six points while Platinum are barely holding on with one point.

After four games with two matches to go in the Confederation Cup, Pyramids of Egypt have taken the lead in Group A with a perfect 12 points. Another Egyptian side Masri are second with six points, with Mauritania’s FC Nouadhibou and Nigeria’s Enugu Rangers on just two points each.

Ahly fought back to hold Platinum of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo. Marwan Mohsen scored a second half equaliser as the Egyptian champions claimed a point in a 1-1 draw against bottom side FC Platinum in Bulawayo on Saturday.

Stanley Ngala had opened the scoring for his Zimbabwean side in the first half before the Egyptians roared back to snatch a point. With seven points, Ahly’s hopes of a place in the quarter finals are very much alive. However, after Tunisia’s Etoile’s win over Al Hilal of Sudan raised their points to nine to lead the group, Ahly have no option other than to beat the Sudanese team to guarantee a quarter-final berth in the group.

Platinum on the other hand are almost out of the competition after picking up their first point of the group stages, but with two matches to go, their mathematical chances of finishing in the top two and moving to the quarters are slim.

Winless in their three previous matches, the Zimbabwean outfit was determined to get at least a victory and against a giant as Ahly who have won the Champions League a record eight times, they were not deterred.

Following some serious attempts, the home team finally earned a goal in the 18th minute when Ngala simply directed the ball into the net from the edge of the six yard box after he stretched a foot into Pavary’s shot a few yards behind him.

In the second half, Ahly’s Mohsen sent the ball home after Ajayi’s initial shot from the left was palmed away by Mhari.

In the same competition, in Group A, Zamalek beat Zambia’s Zesco 2-0 to move closer to quarter-finals in a game that took place at Al Salam Stadium on Friday night in Match Day 4.

Morocca’s Achraf Bencharki gave Zamalek the lead four minutes into the game, while Mustafa Mohamed scored with a minute to go in the game, as Zamalek raised their tally to seven points, three behind TP Mazembe. Zesco remained on two points.

“We knew we had a very tough game away in Zambia,” Zamalek’s French head coach Patrice Carteron said in a post-match press conference. “What was difficult for us at that time was that we had played a difficult league game before we travelled.  And this time I decided to make changes. I wanted all the players to be fresh because I knew we needed to be fantastic physically to play this game. We wanted to play with more intensity from the beginning of the game and this is what happened. We scored an early goal but unluckily we had to wait a long time until we finally scored in the end. We were under pressure throughout the game because of the good quality of our opponent. That’s why it was very important for us to concentrate. Finally, I am really happy with the way we played tonight and with the result.”

Ahly’s low performance led to a draw against Platinum

On the other hand, Zesco’s head coach George Lwandamina admitted he wasn’t satisfied with the result. “It is a bad result. We didn’t start well and I am sure one of the reasons is the obvious weather conditions, the cold. But we tried to come back into the game but they played well. Today we played against a different Zamalek team. They were much more organised and didn’t give us the chance. In today’s game, we didn’t even create any scoring opportunities because of tactical issues and discipline wise. Our chances are very slim now after losing this game. I don’t need to elaborate again on the results. If we had come with a good result, it would have been different.  But we still have to play the last two games,” Lwandamina said.

The two Egyptian sides Pyramids and Masri locked horns once again as Group A of the 2019-20 Total CAF Confederation Cup also reached its Match Day 4 on Sunday at the Cairo-based 30 June Stadium. With an impressive 2-0 win over Masri, debutants Pyramids are unbeaten so far and have stormed into the quarters. A fortnight ago, Pyramids had beaten Masri 2-1 in the first leg match which was held at Borg El-Arab Stadium.

According to cafonline, Pyramids maintain their fairy tale run in the competition to become the first team to progress to the quarter-finals.

Their fourth straight group stage victory saw them move to 12 points with two rounds of matches left in Group A while Masri who are on six points will need a win from one of their last two matches to confirm their place in the last eight.

The other two teams in the group, Mauritania’s FC Nouadhibou and Nigeria’s Enugu Rangers played to a 1-1 draw in Enugu with both sides having slim chances of progressing with two points each.

Goals in either half from Eric Traore and Nabil Aly gave Pyramids the victory and not even skipper Abdullah Said’s penalty miss in between could stop them.

Pyramids, who have won all their three group matches, went into the lead in the 20th minute when Traore fired his sixth goal of the campaign with an emphatic finish from inside the box after keeper Abdel-Wahab spilled a header from Serge Kanon off a Mohamed corner.

The two-goal cushion offered Pyramids some comfort and they defended well to guard the lead and the three points, completing a double over their Egyptian rivals.

The game was the 20th all-Egyptian clash in CAF club competitions, with the previous 19 cutting across various competitions.


*A version of this article appears in print in the 16 January 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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