6 May 2019

Africa: CAF Confederations Cup - Zamalek Hold Etoile to Set Up Berkane Final Clash

Egyptian giants Zamalek booked their place in the final of the Total CAF Confederation Cup 2018/19 season after holding Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia to a barren draw on Sunday away in Sousse.

The Cairo-based side advanced to the decisive stage 1-0 on aggregate, thanks to the lone goal victory from the first leg in Alexandria last week.

Five-time African champions Zamalek frustrated their host to secure the needed result to reach their first final of a continental championship since 2016, with surprise packets RS Berkane of Morocco as opponents.

Not even the sending off of Zamalek goalie Mohamed Gennesh in added-on time for a second yellow card, could hinder the chances of White knights. Having exhausted their substitutions, Omar El Said swapped his position in attack for goal, but the little he did in the remaining minutes was enough for Zamalek seal their place in the final.

It served a sweet revenge for the White Knights who lost to the Tunisian giants in 2015, also the last time the latter won the title.

Despite the small margin of defeat from the first leg, Etoile, winners in 2015, knew this wasn't going to be an easy task for them. Forward Yassine Chikhaoui had the first try at goal just two minutes into the game to no avail.

The host pressed on and Mohamed Msakni fired a free-kick on the quarter hour mark but it posed no threat to the guests.

It was now time for the Egyptians to flex their muscles when Mahmoud Houssein unleashed a piler in the 21st minute but Etoile goalkeeper Makram Bdiri sent the ball sideways with a graceful dive.

Etoile's highlight was just shy of a half hour into the game when Mohamed Konate failed to link the corner with a header before returning moments later from the same scenario, but this time, Gennesh steered the ball off before Ibrahim Hassan stepped up and put an end to the scuffle.

The clock was ticking and the hosts were running out of options as their attempts seemed to be futile so far against the Egyptians. A long anticipated free-kick two minutes past the hour mark was poorly executed by Mohamed El Methnani and the Zamalek defenders calmed nerves.

Ten minutes before the end, Hamdi Naguez stole the show when he denied the homers when he blocked the ball on the goal line.

The final moment of the game was without drama. Zamalek Goalkeeper Gennesh earned himself a second booking four minutes into injury time, with forward El Said taking his place with substitutions elapsed. Even with a striker playing as a goalkeeper, Etoile still failed to find the back of the net which could have forced the game into penalties.

It was all jubilations as Zamalek maintained their fourth away clean sheet in the competition, and into the final.

Reactions

Roger Lemerre (Head Coach, Etoile du Sahel)

We failed to score in both legs so we shouldn't expect a victory. Congratulations to Zamalek who deserve this qualification after a spectacular and consistent defensive style they played today. Today we failed to achieve the task at hand and that's a big disappointment. That's football, there's a winner and a loser. We must turn our focus now to the domestic competition that will set us back on the track of victory.

Christian Gross (Head Coach, Zamalek)

We knew in advance that it wasn't going to be easy to qualify against Etoile du Sahel as they are a very good team. I'm happy that the goal we scored in Egypt gave us the qualification. I have to be fair, tonight we needed a bit of luck but we defended like lions tonight. I'm very happy for the players and our fans this evening.

Mahmoud 'Kahraba' Abdelmonem (Forward, Zamalek)

We congratulate ourselves on this qualification, and we dedicate this feat to our great fans. This is a wonderful present for them at the start of Ramadan. We are very happy to make it to the final and I hope we can play well and win it. Congratulations to all Zamalek fans and the great people of Egypt, who I'm sure were supporting us today.

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