Title holders Ahly sealed qualification for the African Champions League semis after outclassing Zamalek 4-2 as their Cairo rivals waved goodbye to the competition after another dismal campaign.
In an end-to-end encounter played in the searing heat of El-Gouna, a Red Sea resort that is around 430 kilometers south of Cairo, Ahly heaped more misery on Zamalek with a fully deserved win to continue their path towards a second consecutive continental title.
Zamalek continued their habit of taking early leads in the Cairo derbies but ended up suffering an embarrassing loss behind closed doors. Versatile midfielder Omar Gaber needed four minutes to open the scoring but Ahly's in-form winger Walid Soliman equalized few minutes later, setting the tone for an exciting clash.
Striker Ahmed Abdel-Zaher put Ahly in front with a firm header on the quarter-hour mark and Mohamed Abou-Treika extended the gap after being brilliantly set up by Soliman seven minutes after the restart.
Talismanic playmaker Abou-Treika, the Cairo derby's all-time top scorer, took his tally in the traditional duel to 13 goals.
Right-back Ahmed Fathi put the result beyond doubt with a 71st-minute goal before Zamalek's veteran midfielder Ahmed Hassan notched a consolation with eight minutes remaining.
Ahly are on top of Group A with 10 points, three ahead of South Africa's Orlando Pirates and Congo's AC Leopards. Zamalek, who extended their winless Cairo derby run to 16 matches, lie at the bottom on four points.
Seven-time African champions Ahly would reach the semis even if they lost to Orlando in their last game and Leopards beat Zamalek. If the three sides finish level on 10 points, the head-to-head record between the three teams will favour the Red Devils.
Zamalek opted for a cautious approach that did them no favours, as a three-man midfield that lacked a tough-tackling player struggled to contain Ahly's roving forwards. Diminutive attacking midfielder Mohamed Ibrahim once again started on the bench, leaving the White Knights short on spark and imagination.
Ahly, with an abundance of attacking talents at their disposal, played with a lone striker and three deep-lying forwards, a strategy that paid off with a vital display as they tore Zamalek to shreds.
It was Zamalek who took the lead though when Gaber latched onto a fine chipped pass from winger Mahmoud Abdel-Razek 'Shikabala' to outmuscle his challenger and drill the ball past advancing keeper Sherif Ekramy after four minutes.
However, Soliman restored parity five minutes later after a brilliant individual effort. He made a darting run to collect a precise pass and cut inside his marker before crashing a powerful volley into the top corner from the edge of the area.
The game was littered with defensive frailties on both ends, with the backlines of Ahly and Zamalek leaving huge gaps which were repeatedly exposed.
Towering striker Abdel-Zaher put Ahly ahead in the 15th minute in a frantic start to the match, heading home from a corner kick after rising above his marker.
Another piece of magic from the evergreen Abou-Treika, who superbly combined with Soliman, saw Ahly add the third in the 52nd minute.
Soliman, despite being under pressure from a defender, pulled the ball back to Abou-Treika with a sublime back-heel to send a right-foot volley past Zamalek keeper Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed.
Fathi killed off Zamalek's hopes with a fourth goal on 71 minutes. He ghosted behind a static backline to fire home an angled shot after running onto another defence-splitting pass from the impressive Soliman.
The introduction of Ibrahim injected zeal into Zamalek's sluggish frontline but they could only score a consolation through former Egypt skipper Hassan, who headed home at the far post after Ahly keeper Sherif Ekramy parried a cross into his path.
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