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Five talking points from this week's Egyptian League: Meteb's row, top scoring defender and struggles of Zamalek, Ittihad

Highlights from the fifth matchday of the Egyptian Premier League

Ahram Online , Saturday 14 Oct 2017
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Meteb-El-Badry row

Ahly striker Emad Meteb and coach Hossam El-Badry were involved in another episode of their strained relationship when the latter opted against introducing him in Thursday's match against Ittihad of Alexandria despite giving him instructions to warm up.

Meteb, a former Egypt striker who played a bit-part role last season under El-Badry, seemed unhappy with the little time given to him to play when El-Badry called him off the bench in the 80th minute.

When Meteb appeared not interested in warming up, El-Badry decided to keep him on the bench and introduce midfielder Akram Tawfik for Moroccan striker Waliz Azaro. Meteb then threw his training shirt to the ground in protest at the coach's decision.

During the post-match news conference, El-Badry said the matter will be dealt with "internally" because he had an obligation to "preserve Ahly's values as there are red lines that no one can cross, whoever he is".

This is the latest incident in a series of confrontations between the coach and the 34-year old striker, who said he deserved more playing time to prove he can still play at the highest level. On the other hand, El-Badry seems not really convinced that Meteb can restore his glory days and has actively been in pursuit of a top-class striker to spearhead Ahly's attack.

Misfiring striker Azaro is has lately been El-Badry's preferred choice upfront, with Nigerian winger Junior Ajayi and youngster Ahmed Yasser Rayan acting as stand-ins.

Meteb, who signed a one-year contract extension last summer, said he still has one or two more years to play but under the current circumstances, it seems unlikely that he will get that chance at Ahly.

Islam Abou Slima, top scoring defender

Masry defender Islam Abou-Slima is not only preventing the opposition from scoring but he has become one of the team's top scorers after netting his third goal in five games this season, in almost identical fashion.

In set pieces, the 24-year-old defender positions himself at the far post, holding off his challengers to power headers in. He did exactly that against Zamalek, Talae El-Gaish and Maqassa in the past three games. His attempt was blocked by Maqassa keeper but scored on the rebound in Masry's exciting 3-2 victory on Thursday.

Abou-Slima, who joined Masry in the summer from second division side Ittihad El-Shorta, proved to be a major asset for coach Hossam Hassan, whose team is leading the Egyptian Premier League table.

Ittihad's sluggish defence

Ahly exploited Ittihad of Alexandria's defensive problems to hand them their third defeat of the season in five games with a 2-0 win. The costal side have the worst defensive record so far this season, conceding 11 goals with an average of 2.2 goals per game.

Former Egypt and Bundesliga-based defender Hany Ramzy is playing open games against all of his opponents, leaving acres of spaces at the back. Ahly could have secured a more comprehensive win had it not been for their wastefulness, with their forwards squandering several clear-cut chances.

Center backs Mohamed Atwa and Mohamed El-Shazli were repeatedly outmuscled and outpaced, with Ahly's forwards getting the better of them. Ramzy needs to give them more protection and less space to cover.

Ittihad are 10th of the table and could move up the ladder with a more solid defence, especially that their front line is proving efficient with 9 goals scored so far. Ittihad are the third best attacking team, just one goal behind Arab Contractors and Masry.

Five referees

This round witnessed the introduction of a five-referee system for the first time as the Egyptian FA sought to soothe the anger of several clubs over some poor refereeing decisions of late.

The new system, officially known as Additional Assistant Referees (AAR), sees an additional assistant referee placed behind each goal to help the referee rule on contentious decisions during the game.

The EFA took a decision to implement this system after having a request to use the video replay technology turned down by FIFA, who said the technology used was not up to the standards of the world governing body.

Despite the introduction of the five-referee system, there were controversial refereeing decisions in Zamalek's surprise 1-1 draw with lowly Tanta on Friday.

Tanta were awarded two dubious penalties, with television replays showing that they were harsh. One was saved but the other was converted as Tanta secured a share of spoils, sparking furious protests from Zamalek players who harangued the referee following the final whistle.

Nebojsa yet to settle on best Zamalek line-up

Montenegrin coach Nebojsa Jovovic is still undecided over his favourite line-up as Zamalek continue to stutter in the Premier League, having been held to their third draw in their first five matches of the season.

Despite usually playing with three men in central midfield, Nebojsa opted to play with two behind three attacking midfielders and a lone striker in a1-1 draw with Tanta.

He also surprisingly kept skilful winger Ahmed Madbouli and attacking-minded midfielder Ahmed Dawouda on the bench, introducing fellow summer arrivals Youssef Ibrahim and Salah Ashour instead.

The several changes indicate that Nebojsa is still experimenting with his team, having had little time to assess the close-season recruits before the start of the season, given that he himself had arrived late in the summer.

He will not have the luxury of continuing to reshuffle his side as Zamalek can ill-afford to lose more points in the several coming matches if they are to mount a serious title challenge.

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