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Morale booster
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 10 - 01 - 2019

Two second-half goals from Nasser Maher and Ali Maaloul gave Egypt a 2-0 win at home in the opening Group D match against Vita Club of Congo in the African Champions League on Saturday.
The victory boosted the Red Devils who are trying to compensate for their poor performances in the domestic league. They are third with 27 points, 14 behind archrivals Zamalek but with two games in hand.
Ahly took advantage of Vita Club playing with 10 men for more than 50 minutes after Dharles Kalonji, who was booked earlier, was kicked off for a reckless foul.
Ahly went hard for an early goal but those appeared only in the second half through substitute Maher who opened the scoring on the 65th minute after replacing lone striker Marwan Mohsen due to injury.
The second goal was from a penalty which Maaloul converted 11 minutes before the end.
Ahly are second in the group with three points, behind leaders Simba on goal difference after the Tanzanian side crushed Algeria's JS Saoura 3-0 earlier on Saturday.
Commenting on the team's performance, Ahly's new Uruguayan coach Martin Lasarte thanked the players for their efforts. “We were the winners and this was our target,” Lasarte was quoted as saying on the club's official website.
“We did our best from the beginning of the match to secure an early victory which was important for the team in its opening match. To those who are attacking my choices, I have to say it out loud: I am still in the stage of discovering the players to settle on the best,” he added.
The Red Devils, a record nine-time winners of the trophy, lost the Champions League in the final in the past two seasons.
Ahly have signed Enppi midfielder, 25-year-old Hamdi Fathi, on a four-and-a-half-year contract starting this month in a deal estimated at LE30 million.
Ahly have been active during this winter transfer window in an attempt to renovate the squad. Fathi is Ahly's seventh January signing following the arrival of Huddersfield winger Ramadan Sobhi (on loan), Maqassa left-back Mahmoud Wahid, Wadi Degla midfielder Mohamed Mahmoud, Angolan winger Geraldo, Al-Ain winger Hussein Al-Shahat and Smouha defender Yasser Ibrahim.
In the same tournament at the same stage, Egypt's Ismaili wasted a penalty, losing 2-0 to DR Congo's TP Mazembe in their first-leg African Champions League match.
The Dervishes were given a golden opportunity to take the lead in Lubumbashi on the stroke of halftime when Mazembe goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo was shown a straight red card for punching striker Benson Shilongo. However, Baher Al-Mohamadi's effort was blocked by substitute keeper Aime Bakula.
The second half witnessed complete domination by Mazembe as Chico Ushindi opened the scoring. Kevin Mondeko doubled their lead two minutes later with another header as Mazembe ran out 2-0 winners in their fortress.
Ismaili were the first Egyptian side to win the old version of the Champions League in 1969. They also reached the final in 2003 when they lost to Nigeria's Enyimba. But currently Ismaili are at the tail end of the group, pointless.
Mazembe, who have three points, lead second-placed CS Constantine of Algeria on goal difference after the latter beat Tunisia's Club Africain 1-0 on Friday.
Meanwhile, in the first leg of the African Confederation Cup round of 32 last Sunday, Zamalek held Morocco's Ittihad Tanger to a goalless draw in an away game.
Zamalek played cautiously and were satisfied with the tie which give them the advantage in the second leg match on Saturday.
Zamalek pressed from the start and their defence succeeded in stifling the host's attacks. The White Castle were disallowed a goal six minutes into the match for offside.
“I am very satisfied with the team's performance,” Zamalek's Swiss coach Christine Gross said. “It is good to draw abroad while playing in front of the Tanger fans. I will play in a different way in our second-leg match as I will resort to attack after securing the first leg match with a draw.”

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