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Saturday, 18 January 2020

Zamalek crowned Egyptian champions for first time since 2004

Hatem Maher , Tuesday 28 Jul 2015
Zamalek
Zamalek's football team celebrating in one of the Egyptian Premier League games (Photo: the club's official Facebook page)
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Zamalek claimed their first Egyptian Premier League title in 11 years without kicking a ball on Tuesday after nearest challengers Ahly were held to a 1-1 draw by Smouha, ending a long wait for an elusive crown.

The White Knights have finally ended the hegemony of bitter rivals Ahly, who have won the coveted title eight times in a row since Zamalek's last triumph in 2004. Two seasons were cancelled due to civil unrest in Egypt.

Zamalek have an unassailable five-point lead over Ahly with one match remaining for the latter.

Ahly needed to win their remaining two games and hoped Zamalek lose theirs to cause a huge and unthinkable upset.

However, they trailed to an own goal by right-back Mohamed Hani against Smouha five minutes after the interval before Abdallah El-Saied brought Ahly level with a 83rd-minute penalty, which was too little, too late.

Zamalek, who collected a record 83 points from 36 matches, will celebrate the title when they face Talae El-Geish on Wednesday, albeit behind closed doors due to lingering security concerns.

The long-awaited triumph came following the longest Egyptian league season since the competition was inaugurated in 1948. It was halted for more than a month following a football disaster on 8 February when 21 of Zamalek's supporters died in a stampede after being tear-gassed by security forces before a game against ENPPI.

"The boy who was only 10 years when we last won the league is now 21 years and a university graduate," said the club's outspoken chairman Mortada Mansour, who spent heavily last summer to bolster an underachieving squad.

"I congratulate all Zamalek's fans who were very patient."

Mansour spent big to sign more than a dozen players, many of whom played an instrumental role in ending the club's lengthy barren run. Former Porto coach Jesualdo Ferreira, the fourth manager to guide Zamalek this season, is credited with finishing off the season in style despite a painful 2-0 defeat by Ahly last week which extended their Cairo derby winless run to 20 matches.

Tuesday's triumph marks the 12th league title for Zamalek, who boast the league's best attack and defence with 66 goals and only 19 conceded.

The White Knights will be looking to complete a double when they feature in the Egypt Cup next month, a competition they had won the past two seasons. They are also on top of their group in the CAF Confederation Cup, Africa's secondary club competition, with maximum nine points from three games.

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