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Factbox: Highlights of Ahly's 39th league title

Karim Farouk , Tuesday 30 May 2017
Ahly players celebrate scoring a goal against Aswan in the Egyptian League (Photo: Ahram Sport)
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Views: 2499

Fine start

Ahly made an excellent start of their campaign winning their five opening games – including a crucial win against tough rivals Ismaili - before being held to draws by Petrojet 0-0 and Ittihad of Alexandria 2-2.

The Red Devils were clearly dominant in the early games and very impressive although the team lacked accuracy in front of the goal at moments that could have netted them record victories.

Rock solid defence

One of the best features of Ahly under Hossam El-Badry has been defence. While the Red Devils seemed vulnerable last season under Dutch coach Martin Jol, the newly-crowned champions have only conceded nine goals in 30 games to match their best ever performance when they conceded six goals in 26 league games in 2005/06.

International goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy produced some excellent displays, with Ahmed Hegazy and Saad Samir delivering some outstanding performances. These players are carrying the main burden but the secret lies in the team's new scheme, where each and every player is responsible for defence. The group appears now more solid and compact.

African firepower

Since the beginning of the season, Ahly have dominated in terms of possession, but their players have been lacking a final touch. El-Badry's men were controlling games and creating dozens of scoring chances but in the end would win with a one goal margin, like beating newly-promoted Tanta courtesy of a penalty from Ali Maaloul, or Wadi Degla 2-1 with a late strike from Moemen Zakareya.

However, the team's fortune changed with the involvement of Nigerian forward Junior Ajaye, a summer signing who was kept on the bench until October – and Ivorian striker Souleymane Coulibaly who was brought in last January. Ajaye scored seven goals in 20 games while Coulibaly scored six goals in nine games only, to become the team's star striker.

Coulibaly's honeymoon with the team seems to be over, however, as he went AWOL since last Thursday.

Squad depth

Though he already had a full squad before his appointment last August, El-Badry made the best use of his men during the campaign. Usually playing with a 4-2-3-1 formation, he made several changes to his lineup to rotate the squad.

Nineteen players have featured in more than 10 league games so far and the number could be increasing over the next few games, especially if the coach wants to rest his key players after winning the title.

However, El-Badry kept some pillars with the likes of keeper Sherif Ekramy (29 games), experienced and inspirational playmaker Abdallah El-Said (27 games), veteran full back Ahmed Fathi (26) and defensive midfielder Hossam Ashour (22 games) who rarely sat out due to injuries or suspensions. 

Rivals Zamalek fading away

Tackling another season of sweeping changes in the technical staff, arch-rivals Zamalek have been totally knocked out from the title race quite early this season. The Whites have stumbled to third place in the table with 57 points, 19 points behind the new champions.

Upon his arrival in April, Portuguese coach Augusto Inacio made it clear that his top priority would be the African Champions League and Egypt Cup.

Ahly were far behind the other contenders with only a shy rivalry from surprise package Maqassa, who are hoping to cement their place as runners-up in order to play in next year's African Champions League.

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