Ahly, Zamalek share honours in scrappy Cairo derby on waterlogged pitch

Hatem Maher , Saturday 30 Mar 2019

Ahly v Zamalek
Zamalek v Al Ahly - Borg El Arab Stadium, Alexandria, Egypt - March 30, 2019 Al Ahly's Nasser Maher in action (Reuters)

A Cairo derby that promised to be one of the most competitive in years failed to live up to its billing, yielding a disappointing 0-0 draw after Ahly and Zamalek struggled on a waterlogged pitch at Alexandria's Borg El-Arab Stadium on Saturday.

Reports earlier in the day said the match could be postponed after heavy rain in the Mediterranean city further flooded the already poor pitch as the ball got stuck in puddles and the players splashed around.

However, Romanian referee Istvan Kovacs deemed it playable after a quick inspection.

A scrappy affair ended all square, with leaders Zamalek maintaining their two-point lead over Ahly in a tight race for the title.

Pyramids lurk in third with 48 points, three behind Ahly and five adrift of Zamalek, although they played a game more than the Cairo duo.  

Zamalek lost key duo Mahmoud Alaa and Tunisian right-back Hamdi Nagguez to injury before the match but they were barely affected, with their defence looking steadfast.

A heavy downpour that started in the early stages of the match left both sides struggling to string passes together, with too many mis-placed passes hindering them.

Sliding tackles flew at both ends and it seemed a goal can only be scored via aerial efforts or long-range shots, which were often speculative.

The two teams could only create some half-chances, with Zamalek forward Youssef Ibrahim drilling a low shot just wide from the edge of the area and Ahly's Amr El-Sulaya having an effort blocked by keeper Mahmoud Gennesh's legs.

The only real opportunity fell to Ahly's Nasser Maher on the stroke of halftime, when a long ball caused mayhem and left the net unguarded. However, a goal-line clearance by Zamalek's central defender Mohamed Abdel-Ghani denied Maher's header.

The second half was no different, with Zamalek failing to make the most of some promising breakaways and Ahly let down by some wayward passes in the final third.

Both sides had one goal-scoring chance apiece in the last 10 minutes.

Zamalek substitute Hamid Ahaddad blasted high over the bar with the goal gaping after he was found by a corner and his fellow countryman Walid Azaro, who was also introduced in the latter stages by Ahly coach Martin Lasarte, needlessly squared a ball when well-positioned to score after a slip by defender Mohamed Abdel-Ghani allowed him to go clear.

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