Ahly celebrating 42nd league trophy
There was nothing new as Egyptian giants Ahly confirmed their domestic football domination, extending their record in the Egyptian Premier League by winning this season’s title, their 42nd in history and fifth in a row.
The Red Devils won the title without even being on the pitch as Aswan’s 1-0 win over Zamalek all but sealed the title for Swiss coach Rene Weiler and his men with seven games still to play. Zamalek’s points tally stopped at 55, 17 shy of Ahly’s 72.
And with three more points to be deducted from Zamalek at the end of the season due to their non-show against Ahly in February, the Red Devils guaranteed the title as Zamalek’s highest possible points tally will be 70 if they win all their remaining six games.
It’s fair to say the title was sealed a long time ago as Ahly’s closest opponents Zamalek and Pyramids bled points while Weiler’s men won game after game to create a huge points difference that seemed almost impossible to narrow given the consistency of the league leaders. Most Ahly fans had already switched their attention to the African Champions League, viewing the league title a morale booster for the side as they get ready for next month’s semi-finals double header against Morocco’s Wydad.
However, Ahly still have a chance to break several local records if they want to make this title extra special. After the goalless draw against Al-Maqassa, Weiler’s men can collect 91 points if they win their remaining games which will be a record Egyptian points tally. Their previous record was 88 points in season 2017/2018. The champions have scored 63 goals so far in the league and if they manage to score 13 more they will better the record of 75 goals registered in 2017/2018.
At the back, Ahly were even more impressive as they conceded only eight goals, their lowest in an 18-team league. They conceded only six goals in season 2005/2006 but the league consisted of only 14 teams back then. Weiler’s men have 21 clean sheets so far and if they manage to collect four more, they will better their previous record of 24 clean sheets in season 2016/2017.
And finally, if the champions manage to win their remaining games, they’ll have 29 wins which will be a new record, topping 28 wins in season 2017/2018.
Most significant is that Ahly’s 42 league titles overwhelm Zamalek’s 12 crowns, the second most in Egyptian history. The gap is huge and shows how dominant the Red Devils are locally.
Ahly’s top scorer in the league this season is Walid Suleiman with eight goals followed by Hussein Al-Shahat, Magdi Afsha, Marawan Mohsen, Junior Agaye and Ali Maaloul, all with five goals apiece.
One poignant moment this season: the entire Ahly Club, starting from the board all the way to the players and coaching staff, dedicated the title to their star Momen Zakaria who is battling ALS, a disease that causes the death of neurons controlling voluntary muscles and which is preventing him from playing football or living a normal life. The players celebrated their league victory by naming this season’s title after Momen. “Dawry Momen Zakaria” (Momen Zakaria’s title) will surely touch the player and his family.
Moving to the English Premier League, Egypt’s Mohamed Salah helped Liverpool register an impressive win against big spenders Chelsea away from home to make it two wins out of two thanks to Sadio Mane’s double.
After his hat trick against Leeds in the first game, Salah did not score against Chelsea but played a huge role in the first goal when he combined well with Roberto Firmino who crossed to Mane to score with a bullet header.
Chelsea’s keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga then gifted Mane the ball to slot home the second of the game for a 2-0 win to seal maximum points for Jurgen Klopp’s men in Thiago Alcantara’s first game with the Reds.
Salah played a decent game and his link-up play with Mane and Firmino was impressive as he nearly scored with the last kick of the game but Kepa denied the Egyptian to prevent him from scoring his fourth goal of the campaign.
Liverpool’s next game is against in-form Arsenal at Anfield with both teams aiming to make it three wins out of three after recording wins in their first two games.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 24 September, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly