Zamalek end 8-year Ahly jinx to clinch Egypt Cup title

Basem Mursi (L) of El Zamalek celebrates the second goal during their Egyptian Cup finals derby soccer match against Al Ahly at Petro Sport stadium in Cairo (Reuters)

Basem Mursi (L) of El Zamalek celebrates the second goal during their Egyptian Cup finals derby soccer match against Al Ahly at Petro Sport stadium in Cairo (Reuters)

Prolific striker Basem Morsi hit a brace to help Zamalek beat arch-rivals Ahly 2-0 on Monday, a victory that marked the league winners’ third successive Egypt Cup title and first domestic double since 1988.

The win also ended Zamalek’s eight-year Ahly jinx. It is the first time for the Whites to defeat the Reds in 21 games in all competitions since a 2-0 league victory in the 2006/ 2007 season.

Under the helm of Portuguese coach Jesualdo Ferreira this season, Zamalek had earlier ended an 11-year league drought after clinching their 12th domestic title, beating off competition from then title holders Ahly.

Unsuccessful maneuver

In the absence of influential midfielder Hossam Ghaly, Ahly coach Fathi Mabrouk reshuffled his lineup in an attempt to fill the gaps.

He deployed playmaker Abdallah El-Said as a centre midfielder and Ahmed Fathi as a right-back behind natural right-back Bassem Ali, who was used in a more advanced position.

The technical maneuver did not pay off as Ahly failed to live up to prominence.

Zamalek came out with all guns blazing, with tricky passes from vital midfielder Mahmoud Kahraba giving the Egyptian champions the upper hand.

After five minutes, Ahly got their act together but without posing any real threat.

It only took the in-form Morsi 11 minutes to give Zamalek an early lead, when he capitalised on a deadly defensive lapse unmarked to open the scoring.

After an impressive run by midfielder Maarouf Yussef down the left flank, he whipped in a cross that tricked left-back Hussein El-Sayed to come into the path of Morsi, who made a sublime dummy and struck home in style with his left foot.

Ahly went back on the offensive, forcing Zamalek deep into their own half and could have leveled the score twice.

Striker Amr Gamal fired from the edge of the area but his effort was deflected into a corner on the 18th minute. Later on, winger Ramadan Sobhi cut inside, only to see his shot blocked by a compact Zamalek defence.

Ahly’s revival was dealt a blow when Morsi capitalised on more naïve slip-ups by Ali and Saad Samir, to slot the second above keeper Sherif Ekrami in the 34th minute.

Ahly maintained their pressure to bounce back into the game but the poor finishing from their frontmen did not pose a threat.

One the scoring chances saw Moemen Zakaria miss from inside the area after skipping a couple of defenders.

Just before the break, Zamalek midfielder and skipper Omar Gaber could have added a thrid but he blasted wide from inside the area.

Goalless 2nd half

Ahly had the upper hand in terms of possession but failed to convert it into goals.

The opponents were keeping a tightened defence with veteran coach Ferreira relying on Kahraba and inspirational playmaker Ayman Hefni to expose the spaces left behind the when Ahly were pushing forward.

In a bid to put more pressure on his rivals, Mabrouk brought in new strikers Hamdi Zaki and John Antwi to switch his formation to a 4-2-2-2 lineup.

Ahly’s best chance came through Zaki, who latched onto a superb long ball from Sobhi inside the area to fire a left-foot volley that crashed off the post.

Ahly’s veteran striker Emad Meteb came late into the game but failed to make a notable impact.

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