Ahly striker Walid Azaro celebrates one of his goals in the 5-2 win over Arab Contractors on Monday (Photo: Al-Ahram)
Almost four months ago, Walid Azaro was vilified by Ahly's demanding supporters for being a "flop signing" as he struggled in front of goal, wasting numerous clear-cut chances.
Coach Hossam El-Badry, who blessed his signing from Morocco's Difaa El Jadida for $1.4 million last summer, kept faith with the 22-year-old and he is now repaying his trust with a series of clinical displays.
Azaro is now Ahly and the Egyptian Premier League's top scorer with 14 goals, two clear of Wadi Degla's Omar El-Said and Maqassa's Ghanaian striker John Antwi.
"I have to thank El-Badry because he is the main reason that I'm now the league's top scorer. I'm very happy with my current form and I promise the fans that I will give even more," Azaro told an Egyptian radio station on Tuesday.
"I was heavily criticised at the beginning and everyone waited for me to score just one goal. Nobody noticed what I was offering apart from the goals."
Azaro has a valid point.
Although goals were hard to come by, Azaro made it easier for Ahly's deep-lying forwards and playmakers to carve out openings, thanks to his blistering pace that caused a constant menace to his markers and allowed him to ghost behind defences far too easily.
What Azaro needed was perhaps more confidence after the fans grew impatient with his profligacy. While the club are hardly troubled in a domestic league they usually dominate, they could ill-afford to squander easy chances in the lucrative African Champions League where the competition was fierce.
Ahly lost the Champions League final to Morocco's Wydad Casablanca but with the club finding little competition in the Egyptian league, the stage was set for Azaro to prove his worth without much pressure.
In November, Azaro started to deliver. He netted two goals in a 2-1 win over El-Entag El-Harby and was on target in three consecutive victories over Dakhleya, Masry and Enppi.
His latest salvo came in Monday's crushing 5-2 victory over Arab Contractors, scoring a double with two trademark poacher's efforts. He also had a goal disallowed in the first half for an alleged handball.
Azaro's inspired form could earn him a call-up for Morocco's national team as they gear up for the World Cup in Russia, where several of his Ahly teammates will be also in action with Egypt.
"I dream of being present in Russia (next summer). I want to be with Morocco and among the world's greats," he added.
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