Zamalek looked as though they would finally end their Cairo derby jinx but an Ahly comeback in penalty shootout following a 0-0 draw gave them another victory over their bitter rivals and the Egyptian Super Cup title on Sunday.
A largely dull game characterized by defensive-minded tactics was settled on penalties, with Ahly getting over two wasted spot-kicks by Ahmed Abdel-Zaher and Walid Soliman to claim a 5-4 win.
Zamalek keeper Ahmed El-Shennawy, who dived the right way in most of the kicks, grinned after blocking Ahly’s first two efforts but the Red Devils roared back in heartbreaking fashion for Zamalek’s success-starved fans.
Ahmed Samir’s shot was palmed away by Ahly keeper Sherif Ekramy but Zamalek’s faithful are expected to pin the blame on Burkinabe midfielder and debutant Mohamed Koffi, who had a chance to hand Zamalek the trophy but blasted the fifth spot-kick high over.
Ibrahim Salah’s effort in the sudden death struck the post as Ahly’s players and technical staff members celebrated wildly, having extended their unbeaten run against the cross-town rivals to 18 matches.
Zamalek have not beaten Ahly since 2007, with the latter winning 10 games and drawing eight times in all competitions.
Ahly, who also beat Zamalek on penalties in the Super Cup in 2003, extended their record to eight titles. Zamalek won the trophy twice in 2001 and 2002.
Dozens of fans
Although the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) said recently the match would be held behind closed doors due to lingering security concerns, dozens of fans will eventually allowed to attend the game at Cairo Stadium.
The cautious strategy of both sides was fruitful in a first half that witnessed a few goal-scoring opportunities, with the defensive midfielders in particular closing down spaces and leaving little gaps for the opposition to exploit.
Four new players made their Zamalek debut and central midfielder Ibrahim Salah and Burkinabe striker Abdoulaye Cisse played their first match after returning to the club in the close season.
Out of Zamalek’s new signings, diminutive playmaker Ayman Hefni stole the show with some catchy feints and he was unlucky not to break the deadlock on the stroke of halftime when his fierce left-foot shot struck the bar after being finger-tipped by goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy from the edge of the area.
At the other end, Ahly handed debuts to midfielder Mohamed Rezk and Ethiopian striker Saladdin Said but neither made a notable impact in a slow-paced half.
Ahly’s only chance fell to playmaker Walid Soliman after five minutes, with his low free-kick coming off the post.
The second half was no different, with Ahly trying some tame shots that barely troubled keeper Ahmed El-Shennawy and Zamalek struggling to carve out openings in the final third.
Ahly had a chance to score at the death when a volley by substitute Ahmed Abdel-Zaher, a controversial striker who was suspended and loaned out in late 2013 for displaying a sign in support of Islamist protesters, was palmed away by El-Shennawy from a tight angle.
The nervy shootout favoured Ahly, who will be looking to win the Premier League for a ninth successive season when the competition gets underway this week.
Source : Ahram online