Cairo contests

Inas Mazhar , Tuesday 20 Apr 2021

Having beaten Zamalek on Sunday, Ahly seek to repeat three weeks from now, reports Inas Mazhar


Ahly and Zamalek, Cairo’s football archrivals, were at it again on Sunday, with the defending league champions Ahly winning 2-1 thanks to a brace by Mohamed Sherif.

The score is a repeat of the same result when they locked horns in the 2019-20 Total CAF Champions League final in November last year in what was dubbed the ‘ Final of the Century’.

The two Egyptian powerhouses will meet on 10 May when they battle it out again in a rescheduled match.

Ahly have now raised their tally to 30 points after 12 games, three shy of Zamalek but with three games in hand.

The two teams have now played against each other 121 times in the domestic league. Ahly have won 46 times and Zamalek 27. They played to a draw 48 times. Ahly have scored 151 goals in return to 104 for Zamalek.

As for the coaches in head to head clashes, South African Pitso Mosemane of Ahly has faced Zamalek six times, winning five and losing one. His team has scored 10 goals and conceded four, whereas Frenchman Patrice Carteron has played five times against Ahly, winning two, losing two and drawing one. In those games, Zamalek scored six goals and let in five.

Ahly, seeking a sixth consecutive league title, went into Sunday’s game in Cairo Stadium missing numerous key players due to injury, including Tunisian fullback sensation Ali Maaloul and Nigerian import Oluwafemi ‘Junior’Ajayi, besides losing goalkeeper and team captain Mohamed Al-Shennawi who tested positive for Covid-19.

But the defending Egyptian and African champions did not miss a beat, and could have taken the lead less than a minute into the game when Sherif’s effort from close range narrowly missed the target.

The striker was spot on after 20 minutes when he received skipper Ayman Ashraf’s through ball after a free-kick to squeeze the ball past Zamalek goalkeeper Mahmoud Abdel-Rehim, or Gennish, at the near post.

Ten minutes later, Zamalek skipper Mahmoud Abdel-Razek, better known as Shikabala, scored a wonder goal to level the score. His trademark finish came at the half hour mark, cutting from the right side and sending an unstoppable left foot curler crashing into the net.

The goal was identical to Shikabala’s scorcher in the Champions League final.

Zamalek had little time to celebrate though. After just four minutes Sherif grabbed a loose ball and sent a bullet from 25 yards to give his team a 2-1 lead which would hold the rest of the way.

In the second half, it was Zamalek who had most of the chances. Their best chance came at the hour mark when a fall in the box forced Mahmoud Al-Banaa, the first Egyptian official to take charge of the Cairo derby in three years, to check the VAR which awarded them a penalty.

It was clear it wasn’t Zamalek’s day when Mahmoud Alaa’s tame effort was saved by Ahly’s stand-in keeper Ali Lutfi.

Just before the final whistle, Lutfi was there once again, saving Alaa’s header with his fingertips from a close range desperate effort four minutes into injury time.

The promising goalie, who has been warming the substitutes bench for over two years, showed his worth, driving head coach Mosimane to praise him in the post-match press conference and calling him the game’s MVP.

“The games against Zamalek are always tough and exciting,” Mosimane said after the game. “They will always be like this all the time, but I think we controlled the game since the beginning especially in the first 20 minutes. We played in the way we have always wanted to play. Our passing was very good. We did well, but the game always changes when goals are scored.

“To be honest, Zamalek came back and showed who they were, and we had to fight back. So the game was going in waves, sometimes going with Ahly and sometimes with Zamalek. This is part of the game.

“I was disappointed with the goal we conceded tonight. I am not happy about it and I talked about Shikabala with the players before the game because we had conceded the same goal in the final of the Champions League: same game, same player, same area, same everything. I told the players, ‘Shikabala will be going to the left foot, not to the right. I told them to take care because he will do the same and he did and scored.

“But then Sherif scored a brilliant goal. We played against a very big team and a big coach who has huge experience, but we won the game regardless of the absence of some players. We never complain about injuries and absences. We just focus on the players we have. And the man of the match was Ali Lutfi, of course,” Mosimane said.

Zamalek’s head coach Carteron told the press conference: “Today, the best team lost as we were the ones dominating the game most of the time. We made two big mistakes in the game and we paid the price. The players were so tense, unable to move freely as if stuck. The players are surely disappointed by losing the game, yet the team is improving with every game.”

The loss was the second knock on the head for Zamalek in a week following their group-stage elimination from the Champions League.

In the same tournament, Ahly advanced to the quarter-finals.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 22 April, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly


Short link: