Champions Ahly held to surprise draw in Egyptian league opener

Defending champions Ahly had to settle for a surprise 1-1 draw with Talae El-Geish in their opening Egyptian Premier League game on Sunday after some controversial refereeing decisions.

El-Geish stunned Ahly when defender Assem Salah converted from the spot nine minutes before the break, sparking furious protests from Ahly players and coach Hossam El-Badry who argued that the penalty should not have been awarded.

The Red Devils, champions for the past two seasons, were denied a clear penalty at the other end shortly after but playmaker Ahmed El-Sheikh, back to the club after a one-year loan spell with Maqassa, curled home a free kick in the 57th minute to equalise.

Ahly pressed forward in the dying stages but squandered a couple of clear-cut chances to settle for a disappointing draw, just like arch foes and perennial rivals Zamalek who were also held to a 1-1 draw with El-Entag El-Harby on Saturday.

Moroccan striker Walid Azaro was the only summer signing to be included in the starting line-up but was guilty of wasting some easy chances. Although El-Geish had the first scare when forward Salah Amin blasted high over with the goal at his mercy after being found unmarked at the far post on five minutes, Ahly quickly asserted their control but goal-scoring chances were at a premium.

Left-back Hussein El-Sayed went the closest for Ahly when his angled low shot from inside the area was superbly saved by the keeper.

Ahly were taken by surprise on 36 minutes when Assem Salah converted a penalty awarded for an alleged handball on central midfielder Amr El-Sulaya, although the ball appeared to strike his stomach rather than his hand.

Ahly players were further incensed when playmaker Abdallah El-Said was denied a clear penalty when he was felled by El-Geish goalkeeper Mohamed Bassam after skipping past him.

El-Sheikh curled a long-range free kick over the wall and past the poorly-positioned keeper to restore parity on 57 minutes.

Ahly threw men forward and new signings Eslam Mohareb and youngsters Ahmed Hamdi and Ahmed Rayyan were introduced in the latter stages but El-Geish held firm.

Azaro almost snatched a valuable win with seven minutes remaining but his diving near-post header went high over following a pinpoint cross from the left.

Source: Ahram online

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