Ahead but not by much

Alaa Abdel-Ghani , Tuesday 2 Apr 2024

Egypt’s two football clubs enter the second leg of the quarter-finals of their respective African club tournaments nursing slim victories, reports Alaa Abdel-Ghani

photos: Mahmoud Eissa
photos: Mahmoud Eissa

 

Ahly and Zamalek, Egypt’s two most famous football teams, enjoyed narrow victories in the first leg of the quarter-finals of African club tournaments, making the aggregate too close to call.

In the African Champions League, Ahly edged Simba of Tanzania 1-0 in an away game while in the second tier African Confederation Cup, Zamalek beat fellow Egyptian club Modern Future 2-1 thanks to a late penalty.

Defending champions Ahly faced a spirited Simba AC side at the Benjamin Mkwapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam on Friday in front of a 60,000-capacity crowd.

Two sure goals bound for the Ahly net did not connect, allowing the Cairo giants to secure a crucial 1-0 win over the Tanzanians thanks to an Ahmed Koka goal in just the fourth minute following a botched clearance by the Simba defence.

The goal was Kouka’s first in professional football in his 46th appearance for Ahly.

The win was also Ahly’s first-ever in Tanzania against Simba.

The second leg, which will determine who reaches the semi-final, is on 5 April in Cairo.

In the same championship, Ahly were the only victors in the first leg quarter-finals, attesting to how close the remaining eight teams are. A highly tactical battle between Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa and Tanzania’s Young Africans concluded with a goalless stalemate ahead of the return leg in Pretoria.

In Lubumbashi, TP Mazembe of the DR Congo were frustrated by a resilient Petro de Luanda side who denied them a result in front of their fans. Mazembe will be hoping to be more clinical when facing the Angolan champions in Luanda.

Another goalless draw concluded in Tunis as four-time champions Esperance Sportive de Tunis were also held to a goalless stalemate by a stubborn Ivory Coast side ASEC Mimosas who are determined to end their continental drought this season.

In the African Confederation Cup quarter-finals, in the first leg, in an all-Egyptian encounter, Zamalek squeezed past local rivals Modern Future 2-1.

The first leg was played on Sunday at El-Salam Stadium, considered Modern Future’s home turf.

It was Modern Future who took the lead in the 35th minute when Ali Yasser, on loan from Zamalek, was at the tail end of a quick counter attack that beat goalkeeper Mohamed Awwad at the near post.

With just seconds left for the half-time whistle, Tunisian fullback Hamza Mathlouthi equalised for Zamalek with a header from substitute Ahmed ‘Zizo’ Sayed’s corner to level 1-1.

As the game looked to be heading to a draw, Seifeddine Jaziri, also of Tunisia, earned Zamalek a penalty after he was fouled in the box. Zizo scored the winning goal from the spot in the 84th minute.

The second leg is in Cairo International Stadium on 7 April.

The win showed all too well how Zamalek, the 2019 champion, have Modern Future’s number, beating them five out of five times since their first encounter in the domestic league two years ago.

Zizo, who was sidelined for three weeks due to an ankle injury, has contributed five out of the 11 goals scored by Zamalek during those clashes. He now has four goals in this year’s Confed Cup.

In other quarter-final first leg action in the Confed Cup, Rivers United FC of Nigeria upset defending champion USM Alger in Uyo 1-0 but the second game is in Algeria.

Dreams FC of Ghana clinched a 2-1 win over 10-man Malian side Stade Malien in Bamako.

And Libya’s Abu Salim SC held former two-time champions RS Berkane of Morocco to a goalless draw in Libya.

 


* A version of this article appears in print in the 4 April, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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