Zamalek-Africain clash called off after pitch invasion

Hatem Maher , Saturday 2 Apr 2011

The 15 April scheduled restart of the Egyptian Premier League is in doubt after unprecedented hooliganism in a Champions League match at Cairo Stadium

Zamalek’s Champions League encounter at home with Tunisian side Club Africain was called off in stoppage time after thousands of fans invaded the pitch.

The Cairo giants, leading 2-1, were on the verge of exiting the competition from the preliminary round after failing to overturn a 4-2 first-leg deficit.

Zamalek had a goal disallowed for offside and few minutes later thousands of fans stormed the pitch, which caused security personnel to rush in to protect the referee and the linesmen.

The ugly scenes saw angry hooligans throwing stones and damaging the goal’s posts in an unprecedented disarray in Egyptian football. Reports at Cairo Stadium said some players were injured amid the chaos.

Africain are expected to be awarded victory and Zamalek is likely to face sanctions from the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

The Egyptian Premier League was scheduled to resume 15 April but the incident could throw that into doubt.

Central defender Mahmoud Fathallah converted a penalty to put Zamalek in front after 27 minutes but Africain captain Wissem Ben Yahia leveled the score with a blistering long-range free kick.

Qatari winger Hussein Yasser restored Zamalek’s lead just before the break but it was not enough to lift the White Knights through.

Vociferous crowd

Roared on by the enthusiastic and vociferous home crowd who made their presence felt by lighting firecrackers, Zamalek mounted early pressure that could have resulted in a first-minute goal.

In-form forward Mahmoud Abdel-Razek “Shikabaka,” who was one of three attacking midfielders supporting lone striker Ahmed Gaafar, mis-hit his shot from close range after being found unmarked by a neat flick.

Fathallah also headed just over the bar after a deep free kick from Shikabala but he made amends on 27 minutes to send the home fans into ecstasy.

The onrushing Yasser was felled by Karim Aouadhi as the referee awarded a penalty for Zamalek. Spot-kick specialist Fathallah stepped up to send the keeper the wrong way and open the scoring.

Zamalek’s celebrations were short-lived, however, as Africain struck against the run of play to level the score in the 38th minute.

Skipper Ben Yahia let fly from around 40 yards as Zamalek keeper Abdul-Wahed El-Sayed failed to deal with a powerful, yet innocuous free kick.

Zamalek coach Hossam Hassan introduced right-winger Hazem Emam instead of the ineffective Mohamed Ibrahim and the substitution paid off just before the half-time whistle.

The diminutive Emam superbly tricked a challenger on the right before sending in a low cross that evaded Africain keeper Adel Nefzi and went into the path of Yasser, who ghosted behind his marker to notch home into an empty net.

Zamalek, needing one more goal to advance, dominated possession in the second period but hardly threatened Africain after relying on some useless long balls which were easily cleared by the visitors’ defense.

They were boosted though after Africain’s Bilal Ifa was dismissed on the hour mark after receiving a second yellow card for handball.

Ivorian striker Abou Kone, who started the match on the bench, came on to support Gaafar as Hassan sought to increase Zamalek’s attacking options and capitalise on Africain’s numerical disadvantage.

Shikabala spurned a golden opportunity in the 73rd minute when Kone picked him out inside the area but his attempted lob was blocked by the advancing Nefzi.

Fathallah almost gifted Zamalek a decisive goal with three minutes remaining when Nefzi failed to handle a right-wing cross and blasted the ball horribly wide with the goal gaping.

An inswinging Shikabala free kick found the net in stoppage time but the referee disallowed the goal and the chaotic scenes followed shortly after.

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