Weaker teams win
Marawan Zayed, Tuesday 3 Dec 2019
In Africa, Ahly and Zamalek stumble as Pyramids and Masri enjoy away victories, reports Marawan Zayed


It was a mixed week for Egyptian football teams in Africa. Giants Ahly and Zamalek lost while Pyramids and Masri won.

First, 10-man Ahly lost their first game under their new Swiss manager Rene Weiler in the Champions League when they suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Etoile du Sahel away from home in Tunisia. The Egyptian team had to play more than 75 minutes with 10 men when Ayman Ashraf received a debatable red card in the 14th minute after the referee deemed that Ashraf fouled the attacker while he was going one-on-one with Ahmed Al-Shinnawi while Ahly players tried to convince the referee that the ball wasn’t under the control of the attacker. However, the protests were never going to change the referee’s mind as the red card was already out of his pocket.

Despite playing against a very strong team away from home, Weiler’s men battled hard and showed great character that you could be forgiven if you forgot they’re playing with 10 men. However, veteran Yassine Al-Shikhawi managed to win it for his team with the only strike of the game in the 50th minute when he received a glorious pass inside the box, trapping the ball on his chest before volleying it home to send the fans in the stadium crazy.

It was difficult for the Egyptian team to get back into the game as the home side gained momentum from their goal and grew in confidence especially that their manager is the Spaniard Juan Garrido, a former Ahly manager who knows a thing or two about the visitors.

Weiler expressed his delight with his team’s battling performance and insisted that his side would have collected all three points if they played the game with 11 men but refused to criticise the referee or the red card.

In the same group, Al-Hilal of Sudan managed to beat FC Platinum 2-1 of Zimbabwe at home to go first in the group after one game followed by Etoile du Sahel with three points each while Ahly and FC Platinum are third and fourth respectively.

Still in the Champions League, Zamalek suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo away 3-0. The Egyptian side defended brilliantly in the first half and even came close to scoring in the 49th minute when Onagem missed a one-on-one with the keeper two minutes after Ushindi struck the cross bar for the home side with a bullet header from inside the box.

The 60th minute witnessed the first goal of the game as Jackson Muleka headed the ball home from close range after a magnificent cross from the substitute Kabangu. The goal shook the confidence of the White Knights as things got completely out of control in the following few minutes which resulted in a second goal for the home side in the 66th minute through Mputu who received the ball inside the box from Kabangu and slotted it home with a well-placed shot to all but kill the game. The 85th minute witnessed a third assist for game changer Kabangu and a second headed goal for Muleka who was named the official man of the match after the game.

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The heavy defeat meant Zamalek are bottom of the group after the first game as the other game of the group finished 1-1 between Zesco and Premeiro du Agosto.

Leaving the Champions League and moving to the continent’s second tier football tournament, the Confederation Cup, Pyramids FC came from behind to defeat Enugu Rangers 3-1 in Nigeria. Despite going into the half time 1-0 down the Egyptian side played an almost perfect second half and managed to score three times to go back home with three valuable points.

The home side took the lead in the 28th minute thanks to a great solo effort by Ibrahim Agani. However, Mohamed Farouk equalised from the spot after the referee awarded the visitors a penalty kick in the 54th minute after the defender needlessly handled the ball from a corner kick. The 84th minute witnessed the second goal by the Egyptian side through Omar Al-Ayouni whose powerful shot left the keeper with no chance from inside the box. Three minutes later Islam Eissa sealed the win with another spot kick to send his side top of the group.

Still in the same group, Egyptian side Masri had to dig deep to defeat Mauritanian side Nouadhibou 3-2 away from home thanks to a last gasp winner from Karim Al-Eraki. The Egyptian side took the lead in the 20th minute through Austin Amutu but the home side equalised in the 46th minute through Boubakar Bagili before Yassin Al-Welli put the hosts ahead in the 55th minute. The visitors looked shell-shocked for a few minutes before they got back into the game and found an equaliser from Amutu yet again. And just when everyone thought the game would end 2-2, there was still time for some late drama as Al-Eraki won it for the Egyptian side in the 92nd minute to ensure his team go second in the group after Pyramids on goal difference.

Both sides will surely be encouraged after winning away from home so let’s hope things stay as they are so that the two clubs qualify from the group stage.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 5 December, 2019 edition ofAl-Ahram Weekly.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/357075.aspx