Cairo Derby ends goalless, keeping Egyptian Premiere League title race alive

Source: Xinhua| 2019-03-31 08:17:33|Editor: Li Xia
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Saad Samir (R) of Al-Ahly competes during an Egyptian Premier League football match against Zamalek in Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria, Egypt, on March 30, 2019. Al-Ahly tied with Zamalek 0-0. (Xinhua/Ahmed Gomaa)

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt, March 30 (Xinhua) -- Cairo Derby between Egypt's and Africa's football giants Ahly and Zamalek ended scoreless on Saturday night, keeping Zamalek two points clear at the top of the Egyptian Premiere League.

Heavy downpour in Borg El-Arab Stadium in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, which continued during the game, gave the surface a greasy top, causing many miss passes and sliding tackles.

Egyptian media reported earlier in the day that the match could be postponed because of the rainy weather. However, Romanian referee Istvan Kovacs said the pitch is suitable for the game.

The Cairo derby, also known as the Arab Clasico, does not only bring Egypt to a standstill, but much of the continent of Africa and the Middle East too, with estimates of the TV audience for the game in Egypt alone put in excess of 50 million.

Al-Ahly and Zamalek were named as the top two African clubs of the 20th Century by Confederation of African Football.

Such are the passions engendered by the fixture, non-Egyptian referees are often flown in to officiate the derby in order to ensure impartiality.

Throughout the first half, both rivals came out with a conservative approach with only one chance in for title holders Ahly when midfielder Naser Maher sent a header from a close range, but Zamalek defenders made an incredible save near the goal line.

The second half was not much better than the first one as both sides did their best to maintain ball opposition without real danger.

However, the final 15 minutes of the match saw a number of attempts from Ahly players who kept Zamalek footballers in their area.

But efforts of Ahly players, better known as the red devils, found no success, and the game ended with both teams failing to score.

With this draw, Zamalek remains on top with 55 points; two points ahead of title defenders Ahly, with 11 league games remaining for each, keeping the title race between the two rivals alive.

Meanwhile, Ahly coach, Uruguayan Martin Lasarte, said in a press conference after the game that his team had the upper hand in the first half, adding that the performance of his men was affected by the poor state of the pitch.

"The poor condition of the field affected our performance. This harmed our passes," he told reporters.

The derby was played without fans as spectators have been banned from domestic league in Egypt since February 2012 when 72 Ahly supporters died in clashes between fans at Port Said stadium.

The crowd ban was briefly lifted in January 2015 but immediately reimposed after 20 Zamalek fans died in a stampede after police used tear gas to disperse crowds lined up to attend a regular league game against Enppi in Cairo.

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