Cairo rivals Ahly and Zamalek shared honors in a dour African Champions League clash that witnessed the presence of a few thousand fans despite a crowd ban enforced by the Egyptian authorities.
Striker Ahmed Gaafar, who has recently penned a new deal with Zamalek, gave them an early lead but Mohamed Abou-Treika, making his first Ahly appearance in more than six months after ending a loan spell at Emirati side Bani Yas, converted a second-half penalty to restore parity.
Zamalek marked the debut of coach Helmi Toulan by extending their winless Cairo derby streak to 15 games, having last defeated their bitter rivals in an Egyptian Premier League game in 2007. They have not defeated Ahly in seven Champions League meetings.
All four teams in Group A of Africa’s elite club competition have one point each after Orlando Pirates of South Africa and Congo’s AC Leopards settled for a goalless draw earlier this week.
The hardcore supporters of both sides made good on their pledge to defy a crowd ban and attend the game, which took place in the Red Sea resort of El-Gouna. They were eventually allowed to enter the tiny 12,000-seat stadium by security forces.
A carnival atmosphere preceded kick-off, with the fans lighting firecrackers, waving giant flags and hurling toilet papers on to the pitch.
A lively Zamalek side had the better of the early exchanges, thanks to the darting runs of diminutive attacking midfielder Mohamed Ibrahim who repeatedly exposed the gaps in Ahly’s fragile backline.
Zamalek’s three-man midfield closed down spaces and restricted Ahly to some tame efforts.
The White Knights deservedly opened the scoring after eight minutes following a blunder from keeper Sherif Ekramy.
The Egyptian international, who has produced some impressive displays lately, fumbled a low cross from Ibrahim, sparking a goal-mouth scramble that Gaafar took advantage of, slotting into an empty net after two successive shots were blocked by the desperate Ekramy.
Roared on by their passionate crowd, Ahly notably improved after the break but both sides looked jaded, with the energy-sapping heat of El-Gouna taking their toll on the players, who were fasting during the 15th day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Ahly equalised nine minutes after the restart when Abou-Treika calmly stepped up to stroke the ball into the bottom corner after Zamalek defender Salah Soliman clumsily felled striker Ahmed Abdel-Zaher.
Chances were few and far between in a dull second half. Zamalek’s rhythm was also affected after Toulan replaced Ibrahim and midfielder Omar Gaber.
He introduced fan favourite Mahmoud Abdel-Razek ‘Shikabala’, who made his first appearance for Zamalek in over a year after ending a loan spell at UAE club Al-Wasl, but he made little impact.
It was Ahly who launched late raids in a bid to snatch a win, including a shot by the unopposed Abou-Treika that was blocked by Zamalek keeper Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed with one minute remaining.
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