Knockout power

Alaa Abdel-Ghani , Tuesday 27 Feb 2024

Egypt’s two powerhouse clubs reached the knockout stage in their respective African football club tournaments, reports Alaa Abdel-Ghani

Ahly of Egypt VS Ghana s Medeama
Ahly of Egypt VS Ghana s Medeama.

 

Defending champions Ahly of Egypt advanced to the quarter-finals of the African Champions League following a narrow 1-0 victory over Ghana’s Medeama.

In the second-tier continental club tournament, the Confederation Cup, Zamalek, also of Egypt, swept in to the knockout stage after edging Abu Salim of Libya 2-1.

Ahly, who are aiming for a record-extending 12th African title, had winger Hussein Al-Shahat to thank for the winning goal which came three minutes into the second half. Al-Shahat had passed to French import Anthony Modeste who returned the favour by laying the ball back for Al-Shahat who slotted home past Medeama keeper Frank Boateng.

The game was held on Friday at its original time at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi despite Ahly’s request to postpone the match following an airplane malfunction which delayed their arrival.

The win in Group D gave Ahly nine points with a game in the group stage to spare. Young Africans of Tanzania are second with eight points.

Ahly will face Young Africans in Cairo Stadium in the sixth and final round of group matches on Friday 1 March, hoping to finish atop the group which will allow them to play a second-place team in the knockout stage. A draw in Cairo would see Ahly finish top.

Young Africans, who despite only sitting just three points ahead of CR Belouizdad of Algeria, have a head-to-head record which ensures their qualification.

In Friday’s game up to 30,000 fans can watch the match in Cairo Stadium after getting the all-clear from security authorities, reports say. 

CR Belouizdad and Medeama will face each other also on Friday. 

The win marked Ahly’s eighth consecutive participation in the knockout rounds of the Champions League. The result also extended the Cairo side’s unbeaten run in the Champions League to 15 matches, with their last loss a 5-2 setback at the hands of South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns.

Ahly also became the first Egyptian team to win in Kumasi.

In the same tournament, Pyramids of Egypt were knocked out of the group stage following a resounding 3-0 defeat against DR Congo’s TP Mazembe.

Pyramids FC could only manage a mere four points as they were relegated to the bottom of Group A.

TP Mazembe secured their spot in the next round of the continental tournament.

The DR Congo club surged to second place in Group A with 10 points, tied with Sundowns, securing their berth in the quarter-finals.

Pyramids have one remaining match of no consequence against Nouadhibou, the Mauritanian champions.

Altogether, six teams have secured their place in this season’s Champions League quarter-finals, even though one game remains for each.

Joining reigning champions Ahly, Young Africans, TP Mazemebe and Sundowns are Ivorian side Asec Mimosas and Angola’s Petro de Luanda.

Of the current six teams that have officially booked their places, only two are yet to taste continental success, with Ahly (11), Asec Mimosas (one), Mamelodi Sundowns (one) and TP Mazembe (five) all having previously lifted Africa’s most coveted club football trophy.

In Group B, last year’s finalists Morocco’s Wydad AC renewed their title ambitions with a 1-0 win over Jwaneng Galaxy in Botswana, a result that sees them tied on six points with Simba AC of Tanzania who face Jwaneng Galaxy in next week’s final round, while Wydad take on already qualified Asec Mimosas.

In Group C, Petro de Luanda’s qualification leaves the race for second place to be contested by Esperance Sportive de Tunis and Al-Hilal Benghazi. The two sides face each other head-on in a fixture that promises a heated match-up in Tunis on Saturday evening.

In the Confederation Cup, a brace by underused Nasser Mansi gave Zamalek a 2-1 away victory over Abu Salim on Sunday.

This victory secures Zamalek’s qualification to the quarter-finals of the competition as group leaders, with 13 points in Group B, a comfortable four-point lead over second-placed Abu Salim, with one game remaining.

Mansi opened the scoring in the seventh minute after connecting with Omar Gaber’s cross and finding the roof of the net.

Mansi added his second goal after a poor clearance by the host’s goalkeeper, firing the ball into the net three minutes into the second half.

In the 75th minute, Ayhaab Almiqlash narrowed the gap for the hosts.

It was the first African win by Zamalek for their new Portuguese coach Jose Gomes.

In Group A of the Confed Cup, Egyptian side Modern Future claimed a precious 1-1 away draw against South Africa’s SuperSport United in the fifth round of group stage matches.

Ali Zaaza netted for Modern Future in the 31st minute, making the most of a sublime assist from striker Ahmed Atef from inside the box.

SuperSport’s Tendamudzimu Matodzi equalised in the 69th minute.

With eight points from five rounds, Modern Future are currently in second place, trailing group leaders USM Alger from Algeria by two points.

Al-Hilal are third with six points while SuperSport are at the bottom of the group with three points and are out.

The final round of group stage matches is scheduled for 3 March. Modern Future will host Al-Hilal at Cairo International Stadium and a draw will be enough for them to secure their qualification to the quarter-finals. But they will be up against an in-form Al-Hilal who could topple them from their second-place perch should they get the away win.

Coming from behind, Future won the first leg 2-1 in December last year.

Of the five clubs that have qualified in the Confederation Cup thus far, three have won the trophy once each: current holders USM Alger, RS Berkane of Morocco (2022) and Zamalek (2019).


* A version of this article appears in print in the 29 February, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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