Ahly, winners of the last Premier League edition in 2011, opened the new campaign with an easy 1-0 victory over Ghazl El-Mahalla as the competition finally kicked off after months of wrangling over security concerns.
Despite the violence plaguing the country, Egyptian authorities seemed determined to kick-start the competition that has been suspended since last year’s Port Said disaster, which left over 70 Ahly fans killed.
Saturday’s game, which was played behind closed doors at the Air Defence Stadium, a military-owned venue in Cairo, saw Ahly stroll past El-Mahalla despite loaning out three of their influential players.
Zamalek, Ahly’s arch-rivals, take on Alexandria-based club Ittihad at the same stadium later in the day.
A heavy security presence marked the league’s return.
Ahram Online’s Adam Makary said there were at least three police trucks, two armoured military vehicles, a military police presence as well as 24 mounted police officers in front of the stadium.
Before kick-off, Ahly skipper Wael Gomaa and his Mahalla counterpart Nasser Farouk read out a message to stress on fair play rules, a new trend introduced to allay football tensions between rival supporters.
Ahly enjoyed an easy ride against their modest opponents and deservedly went ahead after 12 minutes when Dominique Da Silva superbly exchanged passes with Abdallah El-Saied after evading a challenger before sending a left-foot volley into the far bottom corner.
The Mauritanian ripped off his shirt in the celebrations to reveal a vest with the words “we will never forget you” written on it, referring to the victims of the Port Said disaster.
The Cairo giants wasted several clear-cut opportunities to extend their advantage, with El-Saied having a penalty saved by Mahalla’s 39-year-keeper Farouk and forward El-Sayed Hamdi rattling the bar with a powerful shot after the break.
It was the first domestic game since Ahly defeated ENPPI in the annual Super Cup in September last year.
Spectators will not be allowed to attend matches in the first half of the season due to security concerns. The league is played in a new two-group format due to shortage of time.
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