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Only one path to glory
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 16 - 05 - 2019

Zamalek of Egypt go into the second leg of the final of the African Confederation Cup down 1-0 to Morocco's RS Berkane following a heartbreaking goal at the end.
The competition's leading scorer, Togolese Kodjo Fo Doh Laba, scored the killer goal four minutes into extra time to spark wild celebrations at the Berkane Municipal Stadium on Sunday 19 May. Laba netted the strike that separated the two sides in the fourth minute of added-on time, finally breaking a Zamalek backline that remained resolute throughout the game. It was the first time the Cairo giants had conceded away from home in five matches.
Berkane hit the woodwork twice in the first half while Zamalek's Kahraba miss-shot what would have been a valuable away goal when he walked in clear in the 68th minute.
“Zamalek was playing at their best and the players were up to the challenge except for some silly mistakes,” Amir Mortada, Zamalek's football supervisor, said after the game. “The goal came at the death. We never expected that but this is football and I am sure the players will be able to make up for their first leg loss as they are determined to win the Confederation Cup for the first time in their history.”
“I am sure Zamalek will be able to recover in their game at home as they will be backed by a huge numbers of Zamalek fans who are waiting for such a match,” Ismail Youssef, a Zamalek member of the board, said.
Christian Gross, Zamalek's Swiss coach, promised to make up for his team's mistakes and also to win the title despite the loss.
“I am very sad because of the late goal, but we will be able to recover in the return match,” Gross said in the post-match press conference.
Zamalek have no choice but to win the return match on Sunday 26 May at Alexandria's Borg El-Arab Stadium as they chase their first-ever Confederation Cup title. Any loss or tie would hand the cup to Berkane. A 2-1 win for Zamalek would not be enough. The Egyptian side must also be wary of an away goal that would mean netting three times in reply.
“We will fight to win in Alexandria and clinch the title for the fans,” the coach added. “We were targeting a positive result in the first leg, but they managed to score in the dying minutes.
“I promise the fans and club management to achieve a positive result in the second leg. We will amend our mistakes quickly,” Gross said.
Zamalek have not tasted any success on the continental stage since defeating Morocco's Wydad Casablanca in the African Super Cup in 2003. They have won the more prestigious Champions League five times but have never lifted the Confederation Cup in which and they are making their first appearance in the final.
Berkane reached their first ever continental final after defeating Club Sfaxien of Tunisia 3-2 on aggregate in the semis earlier this month.
In the return leg Zamalek will be without striker Omar Al-Said and Tunisian defender Hamdi Nagguez after the pair picked up yellow cards.
The winner after two legs will pocket $1.25 million while $625,000 goes to the runner-up.
”We had a lot of chances, especially in the first half, and all our players performed well,” RS Berkane head coach Mounir Jaouani said. “Now we have a big mission to bring the title from Egypt. The second leg will be great. I thank the fans who supported us till the last minute. We know the second leg will be difficult, but today's goal will be the ‘goal' for the title”.
Meanwhile, Mortada Mansour, Zamalek's president, and the Egyptian Football Association have asked the police to allow fans to attend the final game.
“We sent a letter to the Interior Ministry asking it to allow 60,000 Zamalek fans to attend the second leg game,” Egyptian Football Association manager Tharwat Sweilam said.
“All the country is behind Zamalek to win the trophy,” Sweilam said.
“There will be support from all entities and the stadium's stands will be full of Egyptian fans, not only Zamalek supporters.”
For security reasons, most football matches in Egypt's domestic league have been played in empty stadiums. Exceptions have been made for African and national team matches.
Egypt is hosting the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) starting next month.

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