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The bigger brother
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 11 - 10 - 2018

Zamalek beat Al-Hilal 2-1 to win the first Saudi-Egyptian Super Cup match in 15 years and the third overall. Zamalek took part in the game after winning the Egypt Cup title last season while Al-Hilal are the current champions of the Saudi league.
Zamalek won the first edition when they defeated Al-Ittihad on penalties after a 0-0 draw.
Sunday's game was as intense as it was thrilling. Both teams, whose countries enjoy strong relations, seemed determined to win but it were the White Knights who went back home with the title. The game wasn't easy though and honestly the Saudis were the better side for most of the encounter but weren't as clinical as the Egyptian giants who ended the first half two goals up.
Goals from Hamdi Naqqaz and Kabongo Kasongo put Zamalek in charge of the proceedings but Al-Hilal hit back strongly in the second half and pulled one back through Omar Khribin. However, Zamalek held on to lift the trophy even though they suffered a very late scare when Al-Hilal thought they had equalised in stoppage time, only for the goal to be disallowed much to the relief of Zamalek players, staff and fans.
Man of the match was clearly Zamalek's Naqqaz but the White Knights were also thankful for their goalkeeper Mahmoud Genesh who made plenty of great saves throughout the match as the hosts attacked aggressively in front of their fans. In addition to Genesh's heroics, Brazilian attacking midfielder Carlos Eduardo had a header denied by the post midway through the first half until Al-Hilal were punished for their wastefulness when Naqqaz found the back of the net after 40 minutes with a powerful header after receiving an excellent cross from winger Mahmoud Kahraba.
Naqqaz then turned provider as he impressively outmuscled his opponent and went clear before crossing low for Kasongo to tap into an empty net to make it 2-0 to the efficient visitors.
The second half saw Al-Hilal pile on huge pressure on Zamalek until they finally made their dominance count when substitute Khribin, the 2017 Asian Player of the Year, headed home at the far post, with Genesh grasping at the ball after it crossed the goal line.
Al-Hilal were unlucky not to equalise on several occasions and Zamalek were dangerous on the break as well, with Kasongo hitting the post with an angled shot. The dying moments of the game were as thrilling as it gets as Al-Dawsari spurned another golden chance in stoppage time before Al-Hilal had their hearts broken when a goal they scored at the death was disallowed for offside after the referee consulted the VAR. The game ended in a 2-1 win for the visitors as Zamalek made it two wins out of three editions so far.
Moving to another Egyptian giant, Ahly suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Alexandrian side Ittihad 4-3 in one of the games of the season so far in the Egyptian League. It was Ahly's first league defeat of the season and the first time their new French coach Patrice Carteron has tasted a loss in all of Ahly's games since taking over at the start of the season. The home side Ittihad took the lead in the 19th minute when Ayman Ashraf scored into his own net before Marawan Mohsen equalised in the 30th minute. However, the Alexandrian side seemed in the mood and took the lead once again 10 minutes later when Zamalek's former player Khaled Amar made it 2-1 in front of his fans to end the first half.
The second half understandably saw the visitors attack aggressively as they looked for an equaliser. As a result the home side made the most out of the spaces behind them as Didier Koreih made it 3-1 in the 54th minute to send the staff and fans crazy in celebrations.
However, the in-form Walid Suleiman made sure the celebrations did not last long as he made it 3-2 seven minutes later to give his side hope of at least tying the game. With less than 30 minutes to go, the visitors once again pushed forward and missed a few half chances through Momen Zakaria and Mohsen before they conceded a shock fourth goal thanks to a magnificent counterattack that saw Ahmed Al-Alfi score his side's killer goal in the 89th minute.
A team like Ahly do not give up easily and two minutes later they scored a third goal thanks to the substitute Mohamed Sherif who scored from close range. The referee gave five minutes of injury time and almost all 10 outfield Ahly players were playing around the box of the hosts but this time they couldn't break the persistence and determination of Ittihad's players as the game ended in a 4-3 win for the brave hosts and their manager Helmi Toulan.
Ahly, the defending champions, are currently ninth in the table with 11 points from six games. Zamalek are leading with 17 points but have played two more games.
Moving from the league to the Arab Club Championship, four Egyptian teams will go head to head in round 16, hoping to win it after Ittihad sealed their place in this round after topping their group in the playoff round. Ittihad will face Zamalek, which means there will be at least one Egyptian team in the quarter-finals.
The rest of the draw saw Sudanese side Al-Merrikh come up against Algerian side USM Alger, Saudi club Al-Nasr against Algerian MC Alger, Egyptian squad Ahly vs Emirati side Al-Wasl, Moroccan squad Wydad Casablanca clashing with Tunisian side Etoile du Sahel, Saudi outfit Al-Hilal meeting Iraqi side Al-Naft, Egyptian club Ismaili against Moroccan side Raja Casablanca and Algerian ES Setif encountering the Saudi side with the same Egyptian name, Ahly.
All remaining 16 teams are arguably the strongest among the Arab teams which means we're in for some entertaining and thrilling games starting from this round until the very end. Our Egyptian giants Ahly and Zamalek in particular will believe they have every chance of lifting the trophy, given their historic dominance over their opponents in the competition.


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