Al Ahly beat Zamalek to win African Champions League title
A sensational late Mohamed Magdy goal gave Al Ahly victory over Cairo rivals Zamalek in the first ever one-legged African Champions League final.
Magdy’s 88th-minute winner settled an entertaining match in which his side had gone ahead early through Amr El Soleya, only for Shikabala to cancel that out before half-time with a world-class effort of his own.
Ahly should already have been leading after Elshahat somehow hit the post when faced with a completely empty net early in the second half.
The win gave them a record-extending ninth African Champions League crown, and also means their boss, South African Pitso Mosimane, becomes just the third coach to win the title with two different clubs.
The 2020 edition of the competition had been delayed because of Covid-19, and measures to control the virus meant that the first African Champions League final to be played between two teams from the same country took place behind closed doors.
It can only be imagined what an atmosphere would have been inside the Cairo International Stadium had fans been allowed in, but nevertheless those watching around the city – and indeed the continent – were treated to a fantastic game that belied the tense nature of most major finals.
This was partly helped by how quickly Al Ahly went ahead.
They seized the initiative right from the start and after only four minutes, they won a corner thanks to a strong run and shot from winger Hussein Ali Elshahat.
From that corner, El Soleya rose comfortably above the Zamalek defence to head powerfully in.
Zamalek were rocked and it took them a while to get back into the game. Only around the 20 minute mark did they begin to look threatening and test Al Ahly.
But gradually they got into increasingly more promising positions. And then on 31 minutes, their captain, Shikabala, produced something quite extraordinary to get them on level terms.
Coming in on the right-hand side, the experienced midfielder showed a breathless turn of pace to cut inside, taking out two Ahly defenders in one movement, before firing past Ahly goalkeeper Mohamed Elshanawy with his left foot from outside of the penalty area.
The precision, the pace and the execution were all magnificent.
In the wake of Shikabala’s goal, the match continued to ebb and flow with both sides unafraid to commit to fast breaks and shots from outside the penalty box that varied between speculative and spectacular.
Ahly, however, really should have gone back into the lead on 53 minutes when a brilliant ball – which took out all the Zamalek defenders and their goalkeeper Gabal Ali – was played across to Elshahat.
Elshahat had an empty net to aim at from almost square on to the right-hand post. But, with almost too much time to think about it, he managed only to hit that post.
Both sides searched for a winner and made great use of the pace of their wingers – Zizo for Zamalek and Magdy for Ahly – to get close.
But the game seemed to be heading to extra time when Magdy was played in on the left, some distance from the Zamalek area.
In one fluid movement, he controlled the ball with his knee, flicking it up and then smashing it across and past Gabal Ali.
It was a truly world-class effort – and the Ahly players celebrated for all they were worth. They knew at that moment they were African champions.