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Alaa Abdel-Ghani , Tuesday 28 Nov 2023

All four Egyptian clubs playing in Africa’s two biggest football club competitions won their first group stage games, and all in friendly territory, reports Alaa Abdel-Ghani

Zamalek beat Libya s Abu Salem 1-0 at Borg Al-Arab Stadium
Zamalek beat Libya s Abu Salem 1-0 at Borg Al-Arab Stadium

 

That proverbial saying, there’s no place like home, could easily have been referring to Egypt. It was here, over the weekend, that four Egyptian clubs won their debut games in the group stage of the African Champions League and Confederation Cup. It was reportedly the first time that Egypt has hosted four African group games simultaneously.

Back from international duty whose players account for half the Egyptian squad, Ahly comfortably beat newcomer Medeama of Ghana 3-0 on Saturday. A 66th minute opener by Mahmoud Kahraba was followed by Hussein Al-Shahat’s strike in the 75th minute, before Salah Mohsen sealed the deal in the 88th minute.

Despite a goalless first half, the victory in Cairo Stadium was rarely in doubt. Ahly, the defending champions, have won the title a record 11 times while Medeama were playing in the group stage of Africa’s most famous club football tournament for the first time.

The win gave Ahly the joint lead in Group D leaders with Algeria’s CR Belouizdad at three points each.

Up next for Ahly will be Young Africans in Tanzania, on Saturday 2 December. Young Africans were beaten by Belouizdad 3-0 on Friday.

Also in the Champions League, in Group A, Egyptian side Pyramids FC got off to a winning start on Friday evening after edging Congolese giants TP Mazembe 1-0 in 30 June Stadium.

Pyramid’s South African striker Fagrie Lakay scored the lone goal in the 54th minute from the left.

In the same group, Mamelodi Sundowns, fresh from winning the inaugural African Football league, took care of business against Mauritanian champions and debutants Nouadhibou on Sunday afternoon, winning 3-0.

The results leave Sundowns and Pyramids atop the table with three points each.

Pyramids are away to Nouadhibou in Mauritania in game two while Mazembe clash with Sundowns. Both matches will be held on Saturday 2 December.

TP Mazembe are five-time winners of the Champions League but have not won it since 2015.

Playing for the first time in the Champions League, Pyramids reached the final of the less illustrious Confederation Cup, losing to RS Berkane of Morocco 1-0 in 2020.

This season’s Champions League’s opening matches were not entirely devoid of upsets. Botswana’s Jwaneng Galaxy produced a shocker after edging Moroccan giants and last season’s finalists Wydad AC with a historic 1-0 away win in a Group B encounter in Casablanca on Saturday night.

In the second-tier Confederation Cup, Zamalek eked out a 1-0 win over unfancied Libyan outfit Abu Salem on Sunday. In Group B, at Alexandria’s Borg El-Arab stadium, Youssef Obama met Ahmed Zizo’s 73rd-minute corner with a glancing header for the winning goal.

Though Zamalek won the Confederation Cup in 2019, minnows Abu Salem gave them not only a run for their money by preventing Zamalek from scoring with just 17 minutes to go, but came close in injury time when their captain’s header hit the crossbar.

With the win, Zamalek sit atop the group with three points, level with Angola’s Sagrada Esperanca who blanked Guinea’s Academie SOAR (formerly known as Co Coyah) earlier in the day 2-0.

In their next fixture, Zamalek will visit Academie SOAR while Abu Salim will host Sagrada Esperanca.

The same day last week, at El-Salam Stadium, in Group A, Egyptian side Modern Future narrowly edged SuperSport United of South Africa 1-0 in the opening round. United are led by former Kaizer Chiefs coach Gavin Hunt who guided them to the CAF Champions League final in 2021.

In almost the identical time as that of Zamalek, in the 76th minute, Ghanam Mohamed scored the only goal of the match from outside the area.

The win by Future, which does not have a large city fan base, sets them up for a tougher challenge next week when they face Al Hilal Benghazi in Libya, despite Al Hilal losing to defending champions USM Alger of Algeria 2-0.

The Egyptian team currently tops the group with three points, along with USM.


* A version of this article appears in print in the 30 November, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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