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Optimism rules
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 26 - 03 - 2014

With one loss, two draws and one victory, Egyptian clubs Ahli, Ismaili, Zamalek and Wadi Degla still harbour high expectations of qualifying to the CAF Confederation Cup and the Champions League competitions.
Zamalek drew goaless against Zambian Nkana at Nkana Stadium in Kitwe last Saturday, yet they are expecting to keep their winning streak on aggregate, particularly since they will be playing in Cairo, their homeland. Nkana seemed helpless after failing to break their past 30-year failure against Egyptian clubs. The two clubs have met four times in the African club event and the White Knights have always kept the upper hand, winning on aggregate. Nkana was eliminated from the African Cup Winners Cup, the competition's older version, 13 years ago at the hands of their contenders, Zamalek.
Five-time African champions, Zamalek, were able to close all their defence lines giving Nkana players a harsh time. Although the Zambians were better in the first half looking for an early goal, the Zamalkawiya were watchful and increased their attacks to score a goal in the second half, but all their trials went into thin air.
Zamalek coach, Ahmed Hossam, “Mido,” commented after the match saying, “My players performed very well and we had many chances to win, but we were unlucky. Nkana is a very good side and that is why we will get ready for the Cairo contender starting now. We have no other choice except to win to regain the title that we missed for many years. This is putting a huge pressure on the players and on us.”
The winner of the coming encounter in the return leg advances to the group stage, while the loser will be dropped to the pre-group stage of the Orange CAF Confederation Cup.
Wadi Degla increased their chances of securing a place at the next round of the CAF Confederation Cup after overcoming Djoliba of Mali 2-0. It was midfielder Mohamed Talaat who started scoring in the second half on the 55th minute, while Djoliba defender Abdoulaye Traore tucked the ball into his own net in extra time giving a lovely present to the Egyptian side, Wadi Degla, and raising their hopes high of completing their qualification for the first time in their history.
Playing at the Air Defence Stadium in Cairo, Wadi Degla were on guard during the first half trying to secure their net and learning the tactics of their opponents, but their technique shifted to attack in the second half to make their coming job in Bamako, Mali, much easier next weekend. Egyptian goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary starred during the match, denying the visitors any goals and blocking all their shots on the spot.
Title holders, Ahli, were held back by losing 0-1 to Ahli Benghazi of Libya in the quarter-final round first-leg clash in Tunis. Ahli's poor performance astonished everyone following the game. The players were reckless in attack, defence or play. Zimbabwe-import Edward Sadomda scored the only goal of the encounter on 67 minutes, to give his side a great advantage over Ahli of Egypt in the coming leg match in Cairo next week. Ahli Benghazi's coach is Egyptian Tarek Al-Ashri, who made it clear that Libya's Ahli Benghazi will be able to qualify to the coming round and beat Ahli in Cairo. He was self-confident and sure of his team, which comprises a number of Egyptian players, such as Eid Abdel-Malak and others.
Al-Ashri complained that both himself and his Egyptian players were badly treated during the match. “The Ahlawi Ultras, who attended the match, attacked us and said obscene words although we booked their places in the stands very early, ensured their safety and that they had enough tickets to attend the contender,” he said.
The match was to Tunis due to the inappropriate security circumstances in Libya at the time. This is considered the second successive loss for the title holders and eight-time winners, Ahli, after facing a similar loss against Tanzanian champions, Young Africans, in the preliminary stage in Dar Al Salam.
Ahli Benghazi appeared in full control of the match, mastering all their shots, while Ahli Egypt's players were out of shape and lacked playing spirit. Sherif Ekrami, Ahli's goalie was the sole player on his side, rescuing two dangerous shots from the Libyans. Ahli of Egypt's coach Mohamed Youssef's trials to change blood and ignite the attack were futile, even after exchanging Mahmoud Hassan ‘Trezeguet' for Burkinabe Moussa Yedan, as it was Ahli Libya who scored a goal just one minute after the exchange.
Ismaili was able to draw goalless 0-0 against Angola's Petro Atletico at Ismailia Stadium, which makes their mission impossible in their coming second-leg match to be held on 30 March in Luanda, Angola. Ismaili players did not play well rendering themselves easy prey for the Angolans in the coming match. The players lacked the African experience needed and did not make any strong attacks on the Angolan net.
Zimbabwean club side How Mine continued with their home record in the Orange CAF Confederation Cup competition with a narrow 2-1 win over visiting Nigerian side Bayelsa United in a second-round, first-leg meeting in Bulawayo.
Meanwhile, South Africa club Super Sport United lost 1-0 to Etoile du Sahel in the first leg of their Orange CAF Confederation Cup second-round tie at Stade Olympique de Sousse in Tunisia .
Elsewhere, two-time title-holders Esperance held giant-killers Real Bamako to a 1-1 draw in Mali. TP Mazembe, of DR Congo left Sewe San Pedro in Ivory Coast with a precious away goal, losing 2-1, whilst Horoya, shock winners over 2013 Club World Cup runners-up Moroccans Raja Casablanca, could not make use of home advantage, going down 1-0 to Tunisians CS Sfaxien. AC Leopards, who last year became the first Congo Brazzaville club to reach the group stage, drew 1-1 with experienced Sudanese club Al Hilal.
South African outfit Kaizer Chiefs were left stunned in the first leg of their African Champions League last sixteen tie, after Vita Club's Ndombe Mubele hit a hat-trick to give the Congolese side an emphatic 3-0 victory.


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