AHLY extended their lead atop the Egyptian football league table to four points after blanking defending champions Zamalek 3-0 on Saturday in Cairo Stadium.
In the aftermath of the loss, reports suggested that Zamalek’s Portuguese coach Jesualdo Ferreira might be headed for the exit.
Following a bland scoreless half, the red shirts, playing with many of their regulars out with injury and suspension, scored three unanswered goals to move four points clear of second place Future.
As of Monday, Ahly were topping the table with 34 points from 14 games, increasing their lead over fourth-placed cross-town Zamalek to eight points. Future are second on 30 points, with Pyramids third on 27.
All four teams had played 14 matches in the 34-game season.
The first half in the famous derby amounted to dull and defensive football in a game the two teams wanted not to lose more than to win.
But the second half sprang to life in the 61st minute when Mahmoud Abdel-Minaam, better known as Kahraba (electricity), recently back on the team after a six-month suspension due to a contractual dispute, opened the scoring for Ahly against his former team with a header from close range provided to him by Ahly midfielder Hamdi Fathi. Fathi had brilliantly chested a high cross and before the ball could fall to the grass, headed it in the path of the onrushing Kahraba.
Mohamed Sherif, Ahli’s striker who had a woeful past season and which has extended into this season, regained some of his former lethal form on Saturday with a brace as a second half substitute. In the 75th minute, a pinball-type play which saw the ball uncontrollably bounce around before ultimately finding its way to the unmarked Sherif who swept it in with a low shot in the corner.
The third goal which sealed the deal saw Sherif beautifully pivot for a bullet left footer which at other times would have gone sky high but this time blazed into the roof of the net. It gave Zamalek keeper Mohamed Awwad no chance.
The brace was particularly sweet for Sherif who scored twice against Zamalek in his debut season two years ago and in which he finished as the league’s top scorer with 21 goals. Ahly supporters are now hoping for déjà vu.
The timing of Sherif’s possible resurgence could not have been better as Ahly visit Morocco for the Club World Cup. They open their campaign against Auckland City on 1 February.
Meanwhile, Zamalek announced on Sunday that the club’s board had voted unanimously to sack Ferreira, adding that a final decision would be made after a league game against Pharco on 6 February. It added that the team’s results in their upcoming three games leading up to Pharco would have no bearing on the club’s decision concerning the coach’s future.
Ferreira, 76, who arrived in mid-season last year for his second stint with Zamalek, steered the club to a rare second consecutive league title. But the chance for an unprecedented straight Zamalek triple title is disappearing. Their winless run has now stretched to four matches after a defeat to Aswan and back-to-back draws against Dakhleya and Ittihad of Alexandria.
The defeat to Ahly also comes after Zamalek had exited the Egypt Cup in the semi-finals after losing to 10-men Pyramids on penalties. The final will pit Ahly against Pyramids.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 26 January, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.