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2019 sports yearender: Zamalek end 16-year African drought after drama

In a series of stories, Ahram Online compiles the remarkable sporting events of 2019

Ahram Online , Wednesday 25 Dec 2019
Zamalek
File Photo: Egyptian club Zamalek celebrates winning the 2019 CAF Confederation Cup. (Photo: AFP)
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Egypt's Zamalek ended their 16-year African drought by winning the Confederation Cup in 2019, with their campaign not short on trademark drama.

Zamalek fans often complain that even when their side win, they have to endure nerve-jangling moments. This was exactly the case as the team clinched their first continental title since winning the African Super Cup in 2003.

It all started in the group stage when Zamalek failed to win any of their first three games, which included two disappointing draws and an embarrassing 4-2 loss at Kenya's Gor Mahia.

Having been written off by many following their poor start, Zamalek roared back in style, winning two of their remaining games and drawing the other to qualify as their group leaders.

Further drama unfolded in the semi-final encounter against Tunisia's Etoile Sahel.

In the first leg away from home, keeper Mahmoud Gennseh was red-carded with few minutes remaining and with the team having already made all three substitutions.

With Zamalek protecting a slender 1-0 first-leg advantage, the match was on a knife edge. Striker Omar El-Said wore the keeper's gloves and stood between the sticks as Etoile threw everything forward.

But a spirited display by Zamalek's rearguard ensured nothing came El-Said's way, with the team advancing to the final.

However, more problems followed. With Gennesh serving a one-game suspension and his stand-in Emad El-Sayed sustaining an injury, Zamalek had to play the final first-leg against Morocco's RS Berkane with only one keeper at their disposal.

Fortunately for them, Omar Salah came through the match unscathed but conceded a stoppage-time goal.

The final act of the drama occurred in the second leg as Zamalek sought to overturn a 1-0 deficit. Berkane defended doggedly but a moment of VAR intervention in the second half proved crucial as a handball which was not originally spotted by the referee let them down.

Mahmoud Alaa dispatched the resulting spot kick to level the aggregate score and Zamalek eventually prevailed in the shootout to win their first title of the Confederation Cup, Africa's secondary club competition.

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

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