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$7.5 million in sight
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 29 - 11 - 2018

After knocking out the title holders and main contender, Ittihad of Alexandria are into the last eight of the Arab Champions Cup.
Ittihad overturned a 1-0 defeat by Zamalek in the first leg, winning 1-0 in the second leg before emerging triumphant in a hectic penalty shootout.
Ittihad Head Coach Helmi Toulan started Friday's game at Petrosport Stadium with a defensive tactic and played on the counterattack, yet the team was not able to score in the first half.
And although Zamalek dominated possession, their attacking trio were also unable to place the ball in Al-Hani Suleiman's net.
Zamalek's Mahmoud Kahraba was granted the first attempt of the match in the early moments of the game as he collected the ball from inside the penalty area and took his shot but the ball went off target.
On the 27th minute, Ibrahim Hassan caught Kasongo Kabongo running solo towards the goal and the Congolese forward brilliantly reacted, however, he was surrounded by two defenders and failed to take the lead for the Whites of Zamalek.
In the 77th minute, Kahraba launched a powerful run on the left side as he cleared space for Youssef Obama inside the box, however, he sent the ball too high off target.
Ittihad's saving goal came in the 84th minute with a stunning header from substitute Emmanuel Banahene as he converted Razack Cisse's cross into Mahmoud Genesh's net.
The game went straight to penalties. Zamalek missed three courtesy of Mahmoud Alaa, Abdallah Gomaa and Hamdi Al-Nagguez. Ittihad qualified by missing only two, that from Bazooka and Karim Al-Deeb.
Walid Salaheddin, Ittihad football director, told AD Sports after the game, “we are so happy for the win and the qualification. We knocked out the first contender and the strongest opponent we can ever face in the competition.
“I want to thank the club's President Mohamed Meselhi for his support. We will try and bring some good signings in the winter transfer window to fight for the Arab title and also to finish in a good position in the Egyptian league,” Salaheddin added.
If Ittihad avoid Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia in the next round, they have a pretty good chance of reaching the final four.
By adding some good signings in the winter transfer window, and playing with the same spirit as they did against Zamalek, Ittihad could reach the final in April next year in Hazzah bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, in the UAE.
The Alexandrian club had knocked out the current title holder ES Tunisia on a 3-3 aggregate. They drew the first leg in Alexandria 1-1, then forced a 2-2 drew in Rades which gave them the spot in the 16th round and the encounter with Zamalek.
Meanwhile, Zamalek President Mortada Mansour could not let the loss go without taking punitive action. Mansour deducted a one-month salary from Swiss coach Christian Gross. He also fined the players an unspecified amount after the elimination.
Despite the early elimination of Zamalek and cross-town rivals Ahly from the competition, the Arab Champions Cup will not lose its glamour due to its unmatched financial rewards.
The winner will take home $7.5 million, head of the Union of Arab Football Associations Turki Al-Sheikh announced.
The purse is second only to the prestigious UEFA Champions League in club competitions, with the European governing body giving the winner $19 million.
The Arab tournament's prize money is more than some famed continental competitions, including the South American Copa Libertadores ($6 million for the winners), the Asian Champions League ($4 million) and the African Champions League ($2.5 million).
Following the win, Ittihad now join the likes of Etoile du Sahel, MC Alger, Al-Wasl and Al-Hilal in the quarter-finals. The draw will be made on 11 December.

Zamalek:
Mahmoud Gennesh, Abdallah Gomaa, Mahmoud Alaa, Abdel-Ghani, Hamdi Al-Nagguez, Ferjani Sassi, Mahmoud Abdel-Aziz, Mahmoud Kahraba, Youssef Obama, Ibrahim Hassan, Kabongo Kasongo.

Ittihad of Alexandria:
Al-Hani Suleiman, Mahmoud Shaaban, Mahmoud Rizk, Bazooka, Mohamed Nassef, Ahmed Dawooda, Nour Al-Sayed, Ahmed Magdi, Karim Al-Deeb, Khaled Ammar, Razack Cisse


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