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Double disappointment
Published in Ahram Online on 09 - 03 - 2021

Egypt's Ahly dropped another point in the African Champions League group stages on Saturday evening, drawing 2-2 with Congolese AS Vita Club at home.
Ahly are now third in Group A with four points. Surprise package Simba of Tanzania are on top of the group with seven points from three matches, three clear of Ahly and Vita Club, whose next duel in Kinshasa later this month could prove decisive.
Ahly's South African coach Pitso Mosimane was dealt an early blow when defender Yasser Ibrahim went down injured after just 10 minutes and had to be replaced by fullback Mahmoud Wahid.
Ahly aimed for a fast start after losing their previous group stage match, but Mohamed Magdi Afsha headed a cross from Ayman Ashraf wide.
Against the run of play, Vita broke the deadlock in the final four minutes of the first half with a well-taken finish from Glody Lileipo.
Ahly aimed for a good start to the second half and came close to drawing level when Walter Bwalya missed a sitter.
img alt='Zamalek's Obama fighting for the ball against Esperance's player' title='Zamalek's Obama fighting for the ball against Esperance's player' src='' /
Zamalek's Obama fighting for the ball against Esperance's player
Within the first 10 minutes of the second stanza, Bwalya was replaced by Taher Mohamed, who was also replaced by Mohamed Sherif for Hussein Al-Shahat.
Sherif followed on a ball from Junior Ajayi before bustling the net, bringing the champions back within 69 minutes.
Within two minutes, Marawan Mohsen had converted a cross from Afsha with a calm finish from point-blank range.
Vita drew level from the spot through Ricky Tulengi as an Ahly victory loomed, leaving Ahly's qualification hopes from Group A in jeopardy.
The defending champions have not won in their last two consecutive continental games in what is widely considered a mediocre group for the record nine-time champions of this tournament.
Tactician Mosimane says it's difficult for him to "completely understand" how they were kept 2-2 by visiting AS Vita in Saturday's Group A match in Cairo.
"I have never seen a match like this in my life. It is difficult for me to fully understand the result. It is frustrating," Mosimane said.
"How many chances we need to win a match? I do not know. It is sad, but what happened is reality. We have no choice but to beat Vita Club in DR Congo. We put ourselves in this difficult position. I believe in my team, and it does not matter how we started; the important thing is how to finish the group."
Mosimane's substitution of Bwalya 11 minutes into the second half raised eyebrows.
After being questioned about his decision to take off the striker who spearheaded their attack, the Ahly coach was mindful of the possible "problems" that could arise.
"Are you really asking me why did you sub off Bwalya today? Are you asking this question to create problems? Bwalya wasted opportunities and that is why he was brought off and Mohamed Sherif entered and scored. You are unfair in your question," Mosimane said.
"The performance was good, but I am concerned about the problem of wasting chances. We have three matches left. I don't play Walter Bwalya all the time. In the last game, Sherif played and didn't score as well. It's easy to talk about Bwalya today because he missed many easy opportunities."
On the other hand, in Group D, the runner up of last season's Champions League, Zamalek, also of Egypt, did not impress when they took on Esperance of Tunisia in Rades.
Zamalek's winless start in the group was extended when they were defeated 3-1 by Esperance who have won the African crown four times.
Zamalek's Portuguese coach Jaime Pacheco said in the postgame press conference, "I congratulate Esperance for the game win."
"In the first half we dominated the game then we lost our concentration only to receive the first goal but we quickly managed to score the equaliser before suffering two more goals," Pacheco added.
Zamalek, who were held to two opening goalless draws before losing to Esperance, are now third in the group with two points, three behind MC Alger of Algeria, who defeated bottom side Teungueth FC 1-0 in Senegal. Esperance top the group with seven points.
"Zamalek maintain the ambition to win the African Champions League title... the competition is still there to qualify," Pacheco said.
Zamalek lost in the Champions League final last year to arch-rivals Ahly.
"I thank Zamalek players for their performance during the game against Esperance since we are in a difficult group but we still have a chance to qualify," Pacheco said.
The Cairo giants are scheduled to host Esperance next week in the fourth round of the Group D games.
Ahly and Zamalek now have little choice but to win their remaining three games apiece to try to secure one of the two top spots in each group and reach the quarter-final knockout stage of the African Champions League.
The writer is a freelance journalist.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 11 March, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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