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Trio march ahead
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 15 - 05 - 2008

In contrasting styles, three Egyptian clubs advanced in their respective African football club championships, reports Ahmed Morsy
Five-time-champions Zamalek booked their place in the group phase of the African Champions League for the first time since 2005 despite losing to Interclube 2-1 in Angola on Sunday. The Cairo giants progressed with a 4-2 aggregate victory after thrashing Interclube 3-0 at home in the first leg.
Zamalek had failed to go beyond the preliminaries since reaching the semis in the 2005 competition, in which they were eliminated at the hands of arch-rivals Ahli. They did not take part in the Champions League the following season after finishing sixth in the Egyptian league table. As for the previous season, Zamalek were knocked out of the competition's round of 32 after failing to overcome Sudan's Hilal.
The men in white took the lead 15 minutes after the first half when Gamal Hamza converted Shikabala's cross to break the deadlock and give his team the lead.
Domingos Fernandes leveled the score in the 40th minute when he capitalised on some sloppy defending. He manoeuvred past two of Zamalek defenders before shooting between Mohamed Abdel-Monsef and his near post to equalise.
In the second half, Fernandes added his second of the night on the hour mark to give Interclube the lead. He bypassed Zamalek right-back Ahmed Ghanem before firing a fierce shot into the roof of Abdul-Monsef goal. However, Abdul-Monsef guaranteed the win after blocking a penalty from Ndjom Charles in the 72nd minute.
In other matches, Ivorian side ASEC Abidjan also reached the CAF Champions League group stage after settling for a 1-1 away draw with the Moroccan side Olympique Khouribga on Sunday. Al-Teriki cancelled out ASEC's early lead but the hosts failed to grab the winner to give their visitors the ticket to the quarter-finals on the away goal rule as the first leg in Abidjan ended 0-0.
The exit of the Moroccan team added to the Arab teams' despair as holders Etoile du Sahel (Tun), Club Africain (Tun), JS Kabylie (Alg) and Ittihad (Lby) were knocked out of Africa's top competition.
Title holder Etoile du Sahel suffered a dramatic 1-0 home defeat to the visitors Dynamos of Zimbabwe to be knocked out of this year�s competition. Dynamos held a 1-0 advantage from the first leg to progress 2-0 on aggregate.
Nigeria's FC Enyimba reserved their place in the last eight after cruising past Tunisia's Club African 6-3 on aggregate. Former champions Enyimba lost 2-1 on Friday, but they were backed by a 5-1 victory two weeks ago in Aba.
Likewise, Cotonsport Garoua of Cameroon were defeated 2-1 in Algeria by JS Kabylie, but went through 4-2 on aggregate after winning 3-0 in the first leg in Cameroon.
Similarly, Al-Hilal of Sudan claimed their position in the last eight of the championship after loosing away 1-0 to Mamelodi Sundowns on Friday but their first leg home match finished 4-2 to progress 4-3 on aggregate.
In Cairo International Stadium, Ahli beat South Africa's Platinum Stars 2-0 to secure a place in the group stage as well.
Two second-half goals earned five-time-champions and last year runner-up Ahli the victory. Domestic league champions Ahli managed to overturn a 2-1 deficit from the first leg to advance with a 3-2 aggregate win.
In the first half, Ahli struggled to break through the South African defensive fence despite dominating possession. Squandered chances were many in the first half.
Emad Meteb finally broke the deadlock five minutes after restart to send the home fans into ecstasy and give his team the lead when Amado Flavio's header from Gilberto's left- wing cross struck the bar and went into the path of the Egypt striker, who slotted home into an empty net.
Gilberto continued his brilliance, providing inch-perfect crosses for Ahli strikers.
Nine minutes past the hour mark, Flavio doubled the score when he headed Gilberto's excellent cross from the left flank.
Despite needing a goal to level the aggregate score, Stars failed to threaten Ahli goalie Amir Abdel-Hamid.
The match was held amidst a low spectator turnout. No more than 10,000 spectators attended the decisive game. Ahli�s recent modest performances, two loses in the national league to Ittihad of Alexandria and Enppi, raised doubts whether Ahli could make it to the group stage. Accordingly, many Ahli fans refrained from going to the stadium.
It took about 50 minutes to break the silence when Ahli opened the score. To the end, spectators held their breath despite leading 2-0 because any sudden goal meant taking the game to penalty kicks.
After the victory, Ahli players celebrated on the pitch. Assistant coach Hossam El-Badri said he was happy with the result. "Of course we are happy. Now we have made it to the group stage and we can compete again to recapture our title," El-Badri told Al-Ahram Weekly.
"I guess we have more chances now in winning this year's event especially with the elimination of L'etoile. However, we can't underestimate any of the other teams who have qualified to the group stages,� El-Badri added.
Ahli might be facing another rival though, Zamalek, who qualified to the group stage. "It is good for Egyptian football to have two teams in the group stage of the African Champions League and it will make it a tough competition. However, we hope we don't have to clash in the same group at an early stage with Zamalek. We want to make the most of the excitement of the competition," El-Badri said.
Head coach of Platinum Stars, Argentine Miguel Gamondi, said after the defeat that he believed Ahli deserved winning the game. "We played well but made a lot of mistakes and lost concentration at times. But when you are playing against a big team as Ahli you have to be alert all the time and maintain your focus, because when we lost concentration we lost the game."
Abdel-Hamid Bassiouni's second-half header earned Egypt's Haras Al-Hedoud a 1-0 home victory over Libya's Al-Akhdar and a place in the Confederation Cup round of 16. Al-Hedoud progressed with a 2-1 aggregate victory after the first-leg ended in a 1-1 draw.
Bassiouni scored the winner in the 60th minute when he connected with Ahmed Eid's cross at the far post to head past the keeper.
Al-Hedoud had several decent chances to kill off the visitors' hopes of leveling the score. A superb curling shot from Eid was denied by the bar while Abdel-Salam Nagah shot wide after going clear on goal.
Al-Akhdar almost equalised 12 minutes from time but a close-range effort by Abdel-Hamid Al-Zidani, who scored in the first leg, went just wide of the post.
Al-Hedoud, who lie fifth in the Egyptian league table, held onto their lead to claim a precious win that sent them through to the next round of the second most important African football club competition after the Champions League.


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