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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Marquee CAFCC first leg matchup in Cairo ends goalless between Pyramids and Raja Casablanca

An exciting match was anticipated between Egyptian side Pyramids FC and Raja Casablanca in their CAF Confederation Cup semifinal first leg matchup, but the attacking talent failed to deliver as the defensive units of both teams won out for a 0-0 draw in Cairo. Both teams created half chances and a couple of golden opportunities but now Raja will take home a solid result for next week’s 2nd leg encounter in Casablanca.

Raja, as the current favorites to win the CAFCC, looked to assert themselves with their dominant attack and looked the most likely to score in the opening half. Star playmaker Soufiane Rahimi collected the ball with space to maneuver in the 10th minute and unleashed a shot from 25 yards out that stung the gloves of Pyramids goalkeeper Ahmed El Shenawy, but former Zamalek player parried it away with relatively little trouble.

On fire striker Ben Malango did well to hold off a couple of Pyramids defenders 15 minutes later and sent Mahmoud Benhalib down the right flank, who tapped a short through ball to Rahimi but his low shot was once again well denied by El Shenawy. Ibrahim Adel had the best first half chance for the hosts but his side footed effort from 10 yards out was well blocked after being set up by a low cross from the left flank. The first half ended with little to excite the viewers.

The action picked up a bit after the halftime break with a clear cut chance for each team. Pyramids and Egypt national team attacking player Ramadan Sobhi was more influential and produced some of his trademark slick dribbling to create space and cross towards Adel, but the Raja defense reacted with the appropriate urgency to thwart the opportunity.

Raja’s best chance and the closest either team came to scoring arrived in the 67th minute. Veteran substitute Mohsine Moutaouali, brought in to spark the Green Eagles attack, put a quickly taken free kick into the Pyramids box and a Rahimi’s attempt at the ball threw El Shenawy off, causing the ball to bounce alarmingly towards the goal. However, the center back pairing of Pyramids sprinted back to save the day with Ahmed Samy sliding to knock the ball away. The ball came right to Rahimi, who did not have to worry about El Shenawy but still could not beat Ali Gabr defending the goal line, who used his chest to deflect the ball back to the retreating El Shenawy.

Sobhi created more later on to pose a threat to Raja but Pyramids were toothless in their finishing. Playmaker Abdallah Said played an excellent aerial ball to send Sobhi with only one Raja defender between him and keeper Anas Zniti, but the former Stoke City player took far too long and had his shot blocked. The Pyramids #10 then slalomed through three Raja defenders before setting up Said for a shot in the middle of the Raja penalty area, but left back Mohamed Souboul and Ilias Haddad both flung themselves at the ball and did brilliantly to deflect the shot away from danger.

Highlights of the first leg are below.