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Honours even between Ahly, Zamalek in dour Cairo derby

Hatem Maher , Saturday 9 Jul 2016
Ahly vs. Zamalek
Egyptian Premier League - Al Ahly v El Zamalek - Army Stadium, Suez, Egypt - 9/7/2016 - Players of Al Ahly and El Zamalek in action (Photo: Reuters)
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Zamalek had territorial dominance but could not find a breakthrough as they failed to claim their first Egyptian Premier League win over newly-crowned champions Ahly in nine years following a 0-0 draw in a dour Cairo derby on the final day of the season.

Substitute Mostafa Fathi mis-hit his shot with the goal at his mercy in stoppage time as Zamalek wasted one of two real chances throughout the 90 minutes that if converted would have given them their first derby win in the league since 2007.

Ahly, who wrestled the title from their nemesis with two matches to spare for their ninth triumph in 10 seasons, looked jaded and were content to sit back in the second half and soak up pressure at the Egyptian Army Stadium in Suez.

This season's runners-up Zamalek have now drawn seven times and lost six league matches since defeating a second-string Ahly side 2-0 nine years ago when the Red Devils had also been crowned champions before playing the derby.

Both sides will now turn their attention to their ongoing African Champions League campaign, with Ahly particularly in a perilous position after suffering two opening group-stage defeats.

Zamalek are well equipped to qualify for the semi-final after claiming an opening 1-0 victory away to Nigeria's Enyimba, just before the disqualification of Algeria's ES Setif due to crowd trouble boosted their chances.

Better possession

Zamalek had the better possession in a cagey first half after adopting a bolder approach than Ahly, fielding three attacking midfielders behind lone striker Bassem Morsi.

Ahly, with in-form prodigy Ramadan Sobhi starting on the bench, played with three holding midfielders to stifle Zamalek's attack in a largely balanced half with a few goalscoring chances.

Each had a chance to break the deadlock in moments of defensive lapses.

On 22 minutes, Zamalek's skilful playmaker Ayman Hefni was guilty of spurning a golden chance when a neat one-two with attacking midfielder Mohamed Ibrahim saw him ghost behind a static defence but he volleyed over the bar with the goal at his mercy.

At the other end, Ahly's central defender Ahmed Hegazy was unlucky not to break the deadlock nine minutes later when his header following a corner was cleared off the line by Zamalek's left-back Adel Gomaa.

Both sides eased off in the second half but Zamalek still looked livelier, pushing forward in a bid to find a morale-boosting winner.

Morsi headed against the side netting at the far post following a corner before Fathi, whose second-half introduction injected much-needed zeal, broke clear in stoppage time after Ahly's left-back Sabri Rahil misjudged a cross.

However, his weak left-footer was easily cleared as both sides settled for a 0-0 draw.

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