Ahly's fearsome attacking trio at heart of Egyptian league triumph

Hatem Maher , Monday 12 Mar 2018

Ahly playmaker Abdallah El-Said celebrates scoring alongside with Walid Azaro (left) and Walid Soliman (right) (Photo: Reuters)

Some neat three-man moves upfront were too much to handle for Ahly's opponents as the Red Devils swept to a routine Egyptian Premier League triumph with plenty of entertainment on display.

Ahly have not only secured a third consecutive title with six matches to spare, but also offered an attacking flair that marked a significant improvement from last season when they were somewhat criticisied for being "dull" despite their undoubted efficiency in the final third.

It owed much to a fearsome trio whose combinations bamboozled opposing defences and drove Ahly to a record-extending 40th triumph as the club continue to play in a league of their own, having won 11 titles in the last 12 seasons.

With Moroccan red-hot striker Walid Azaro spearheading the attack and enjoying the company of left-winger Junior Ajayi and veteran playmaker Abdallah El-Said, goal bonanzas were inevitable.

The trio has racked up 35 goals between them, almost half of the total amount scored by Ahly in another dominant campaign. Each of the three has his own unique attributes.  

Nigerian winger Ajayi, whose form earned him a call-up to the Super Eagles' squad ahead of the World Cup, is adept at holding up the ball under pressure and unlocking backlines with astute passes to overlapping teammates.

El-Said, a key player in Egypt's squad, dictates play with his composed playing style, sending long balls upfield or deft defence-splitting passes. He scored 10 goals and created an impressive 11, justifying the media hype surrounding his future as he remains reluctant to extend his deal, which expires at the end of the season.

Azaro phenomenon

Azaro's story is the most headline-grabbing one. It's that of a striker who turned from zero to hero, having initially struggled to win over the fans after a series of disappointing displays before exploding when it mattered most, striking fear into Ahly's rivals.

His profligacy in his early months at the club after joining in the summer from Morocco's Difaa El Jadida had fans purring but he made amends with some clinical performances to edge closer to setting an Egyptian league record.

His 17 goals saw him become the league's joint most prolific foreigner in a single season, on level with Ismaily's Nigerian frontman John Utaka and former Ahly striker Flavio Amado of Angola, who both netted 17 in 2000 and 2007 respectively. With six matches remaining, Azaro is highly likely to break the record. 

"I had confidence in him because he boasts all the attributes of a top quality striker," said Ahly coach Hossam El-Badry.

"Even when he was criticised, he was still at the heart of our moves and proved a constant threat to our opponents. He is speedy so he makes it hard for any defender to closely mark him."

The efficiency of the attacking trio has also masked any defensive cracks resulting from the shortage of options in the heart of the backline, with Ahly playing for long spells with makeshift defenders because of repeated injuries to regular duo Saad Samir and Mohamed Naguib.

El-Badry, who steered Ahly to three league titles in three stints, is also credited for notably improving the team's counter-attacking abilities, which were in full swing this term.

Those who dared to have a bold approach were torn to shreds as Ahly enjoyed several comprehensive wins, with the biggest one coming last month when they hammered lowly Nasr 5-0.

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