Cairo is red: Ahly reclaim Egyptian league title
Hatem Maher , Saturday 25 Jun 2016


Ahly ensured Zamalek's domestic football domination would be over before they know it, wrestling the Egyptian Premier League title from their bitter Cairo rivals with two matches to spare after brushing aside Ismaily with a 2-1 victory on Friday.

The Red Devils, Egypt and Africa's most successful side, claimed their ninth title in 10 seasons and 38th overall after Zamalek had briefly ended their eight-season hegemony with a rare triumph last year.

Although Ahly seemed to have the coveted league title in the bag earlier in the season, alarm bells rang after their 11-point lead over Zamalek was trimmed to five following surprise defeats by Wadi Degla and Masry at a time when their foes embarked on an eight-match winning run.

Zamalek hoped to win two games and awaited a gift from either Ismaily or Ittihad, Ahly's opponents, before meeting the leaders in what could have been a crucial Cairo derby on the final day of the season.

But two early goals from in-form teenager Ramadan Sobhi and Walid Soliman set Ahly on their way to a 2-1 victory over Ismaily, who scored a consolation through Ghanaian striker Emmanuel Banahene, while Zamalek came from behind twice to earn a 2-2 draw with Masry.

Martin Jol's pillow

The results left Ahly with an unassailable seven-point lead over Zamalek with two matches remaining, ensuring Dutch coach Martin Jol would stick to his promise of playing the derby "with his head on a pillow".

The controversial comment made by Jol following a league match last month was deemed derogatory by Zamalek's supporters but it underlined the confidence of the former Tottenham Hotspur boss, who was credited with notably improving Ahly's attacking displays following his arrival in February.

Despite their somewhat shaky defence, Ahly often looked lively upfront, helped by the dazzling skills of 19-year-old winger Sobhi, who is heavily linked with a summer move to English Premier League side Stoke City.

He needed nine minutes to put Ahly in front against Ismaily at Cairo's Petrosport Stadium.

The Egyptian international was on hand to simply tap in into an empty net after a far-post header from Moemen Zakareya struck the post following the Ismaily keeper's failure to handle a tame cross.

Winger Soliman arrowed a superb left-foot free-kick into the top corner, aided by a slight deflection, from the edge of the area to double the lead but Ismaily pulled one back on 18 minutes through Banahene with a far-post finish after a defensive lapse.

Ahly wasted several chances to put the result beyond doubt but Ismaily did not really pose real threats as the Cairo giants reclaimed the league title.

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