The draw, played at Al-Salam Stadium in front of several thousand spectators, meant defending champion Zamalek still topped the table with 45 points after 21 games with 13 games to go, four ahead of third-placed Ahly, who had three. games in hand. Pyramids are second with 43 points in 21 games.
Ahly is trying to reclaim the title he held for seven years before Zamalek clinched top spot in 2021 for their 13th league championship overall. Ahly has the best of all Egyptian teams, 42.
On Sunday, Ahly was guided by caretaker coach Sami Komsan who faced a stern test in just his second game following the sudden departure last week of South African coach Pitso Mosimane.
Ahly had won the opener 5-3, a record number of goals scored in the derby. Sunday’s encounter had only half that number but produced perhaps more excitement.
The first half ended in favor of Ahly 1-0 thanks to an easy lob in the 12th minute scored by striker Mohamed Sherif following a terrible attempt to clear the head of defender Mohamed Abdel-Ghani.
Zamalek, led by veteran Portuguese manager Jesualdo Ferreira who led them to a rare domestic double in 2015, turned things around in the second half, scoring twice in a row. Zamalek’s replacement, the biggest star and fan favorite Mahmoud Shikabala, always a thorn in Ahly’s side, sent an inch-perfect pass for a header from Achraf Bencharki in the 68th minute. Shikabala then scored the go-ahead goal eight minutes later, shooting low from close range after Ahly’s normally stable Tunisian defender Ali Maloul inexplicably dropped a loose, tame ball.
Ahly, however, would restore parity with 10 minutes remaining as substitute Mohamed Taher whipped a cross for Salah Mohsen to head home despite goalkeeper Mohamed Awad’s frantic attempt to clear the ball after it crossed the line beginning.
Spanish referee José Luis Munuera Montero – foreign referees are always used in these often heated city rivalries – saw fit not to use VAR once, although a few incidents might have required checking, sure of his decisions and those of his assistants. .
Both sides have been without several key players through injury, but relatively new faces, particularly from the Zamalek side, have picked up the slack admirably. In their quest to make a name for themselves in the biggest game on the local scene, several of these rookies have ensured that missing players aren’t missing out all that much.
The match was also notable for featuring the offspring of former Zamalek big names. Youssef Nabih, whose marauding run down the left led to Shikabala’s goal, is the son of assistant coach Osama Nabih, once the league’s top striker. And midfielder Seif Gaafar made father Farouk, one of Egypt’s all-time best midfielders and current studio analyst, proud as dad flashed a beaming smile for the cameras.
For many decades home and away derby ties were played late in the season in the belief that the title race would be so close that the winner of the crown would not be known until the final whistle. which in turn would produce a top notch finale.
However, these do-or-die matchups mostly didn’t live up to their billing, so much pressure was put on players to perform well in such hangers.
Over the past couple of years, derbies have been played early, with at least a dozen games remaining after that, in the hopes that players won’t approach contentious encounters as all or nothing and therefore make more entertaining things. commitments.
After the match, Komsan apologized to his team’s fans for the draw, saying his opponents “showed character and managed to draw”.
On the other hand, Ferreira didn’t mince words, saying Zamalek ‘deserved to win’
A version of this article appeared in the June 23, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.