Al Ahly wins African final over Egyptian rival Zamalek

It was the first African Champions League final contested by clubs from the same country
Saturday 28/11/2020
Al Ahly’s Afsha and Al Marwan Mohsen celebrate after winning the final, in Cairo International Stadium, November 27, 2020. (REUTERS)
Al Ahly’s Afsha and Al Marwan Mohsen celebrate after winning the final, in Cairo International Stadium, November 27, 2020. (REUTERS)

CAIRO--Al Ahly beat Zamalek 2-1 in an all-Egyptian African Champions League final on Friday, with a fabulous late goal from Mohamed Magdy clinching Ahly’s record-extending ninth title and a sweet victory over its fierce Cairo rival.

Magdy’s goal was fitting to win Africa’s top club competition as he controlled the ball with his knee and volleyed in from outside the area with two minutes of regulation time to go.

It settled the first African Champions League final contested by clubs from the same country, and two of Africa’s biggest clubs. Zamalek has won the competition five times.

Al Ahly substitutes and coaching staff flooded the field at the final whistle in a near-empty Cairo International Stadium because of the coronavirus. Ahly’s South African coach, Pitso Mosimane, pumped his fist at a small group of dignitaries that sat behind the dugouts and was then hoisted onto the shoulders of an Al Ahly official who, in a sign of the times, was wearing a plastic medical gown, mask and gloves.

Mosimane took over at Al Ahly only in September in a highly surprising appointment but has his hands on the big prize already.

Confederation of African Football president Ahmad Ahmad wasn’t present to award the trophy after being banned from all soccer for five years this week for financial misconduct. Ahly didn’t care and goalkeeper and captain Mohamed el-Shenawy lifted the cup.

Al Ahly’s Hamdi Fathi (L) and Zamalek’s Ahmed Sayed in action during the African Champions League Final soccer match between Zamalek and AL Ahly at Cairo International Stadium, November 27, 2020. (REUTERS)
Al Ahly’s Hamdi Fathi (L) and Zamalek’s Ahmed Sayed in action during the African Champions League Final soccer match between Zamalek and AL Ahly at Cairo International Stadium, November 27, 2020. (REUTERS)

Ahly led through an early header by Amr el-Solia but Zamalek leveled before halftime with another top-drawer goal. Zamalek captain Shikabala burst down the right, beat two defenders, drifted inside and sent a powerful left-foot shot home.

Zamalek was dominant for stages in the second half and nearly went ahead in the 65th minute when Zizo’s shot from way out thudded off the left-hand post with el-Shenawy grasping at air.

Magdy’s winner also gave Al Ahly, the newly crowned Egyptian champion, a place at the Club World Cup in February.

The final went smoothly, a relief for the African confederation after it was delayed due to earlier fixtures being affected by the virus.

Last year’s final was a mess when the second leg was abandoned after Moroccan team Wydad Casablanca walked off the field because of a dispute over VAR, a highly embarrassing turn for Africa’s showpiece club tournament. Esperance of Tunisia was declared African champion because of Wydad’s walk off but only after a ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The tournament has been changed to one-off finals and this year’s was the first.