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Wednesday, 01 April 2020

Ahly settle for exciting 2-2 draw with Masry to throw title race wide open

After opening up a seven-point lead over second-placed Zamalek two weeks ago, Ahly are now just three points ahead of their arch-rivals

Omar Zaazou , Tuesday 23 Feb 2016
Malick Evouna
Ahly striker Malick Evouna scored the equalizer against Masry (Ahram)
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When Ahly defeated Zamalek in the Cairo derby on 9 February, they looked well-placed to go far on top and wrestle the title from their arch rivals but an exciting 2-2 draw with Masry in Alexandria on Tuesday, their third straight stalemate, re-threw the Egyptian league race wide open.

In a rescheduled match, it was Masry who took the lead twice either side of the interval through Ahmed Yasser and Mohamed Magdi (penalty), but  Moemen Zakareya and Malick Evouna equalised on both occasions to give Ahly a share of spoils.

The Red Devils intensified pressure in the latter stages but were unlucky not to score amid a dogged Masry rearguard and they paid the price of a dreadful blunder from stand-in keeper Ahmed Adel, who looked shaky after replacing the injured Sherif Ekramy.

After a 2-0 victory over Zamalek that opened-up a seven-point lead at the top of the table, Ahly were held to three consecutive draws with Talae El-Geish, Ghazl El-Mahalla and Masry.

They remain in charge of the league with 41 points but are now just three points ahead of Zamalek, who recorded two successive narrow wins over Aswan and Alexandria's Ittihad.   

Early Masry lead

The first half kicked off with Masry determined to press high up the pitch in an attempt to prevent Ahly from moving the ball forward from the back.

Ahly, on the other hand, seemed affected by the absence of midfield playmaker duo Hossam Ghaly and Abdallah El-Saied, with Ahmed Fathi and Hossam Ashour barely able to feed the team's attacking quartet.

And it was just 11 minutes into the game when the Port-Said side took the lead, after Ahmed 'Kaboria' exploited the space left in behind out-of-position center-back Rami Rabia before crossing towards the unmarked Yasser who slotted past keeper Sherif Ekramy at the far post.

Despite being one goal down, Ahly failed to pose real threat on goal from open play and they needed a set-piece to bring the score level15 minutes later.

After Ahly were awarded a free kick near the edge of the area from a golden position towards the left, Zakareya stepped up to take the set-piece which he curled over the wall and past Palestinian keeper Ramzy Saleh.

But the league leaders looked to have gained confidence after netting the equaliser, and Masry defender Mohamed Magdi was forced into a goal-line clearance after Zakareya had failed to convert from point-blank range.  

Keeper mistake

The second half saw Ahly push forward early on, as the 49th minute saw lone striker Malick Evouna hit a left-footed volley wide from close range in what initially looked a dangerous chance.

But Masry restored their advantage in the 57th minute, after Ahly keeper Ahmed Adel was guilty of a last-man foul on a through-on-goal Yasser inside the box, as the referee instantly pointed to the spot.

Hamdi then managed to convert the ensuing penalty, sending the keeper the wrong way.

Caretaker Ahly manager Abdel-Aziz Abdel-Shafy 'Zizo', who is set to be replaced by a foreign boss within the next few days, then intervened by introducing Ghaly and El-Said instead of full-back Hani and midfielder Saleh Gomaa.

Three minutes later, Masry winger Said Mourad unleashed a long range strike that was blocked by an otherwise shaky keeper Adel.

From there on Ahly controlled the game, with Masry naively pushing the full-backs forward into attack – as Ahly's Ramadan Sobhi capitalised on the spaces left in the left-back zone.

After center-back Rabia had seen a header denied by the woodwork, it was Sobhi who orchestrated Evouna's leveler from the right, as the winger superbly evaded his opponent's challenge to set up the Gabon striker who easily slid home past the keeper.

With Ahly pouring forward in search for the winning goal, Masry enjoyed space on the break as ex-Ahly striker Ahmed Raouf was denied this time by keeper Adel's post.   

Masry keeper Saleh then timely rushed out of goal to thwart a clear-on-goal Evouna before substitute Amr Gamal missed a close header in stoppage time as the game ended in a 2-2 draw.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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