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CAF Confederations Cup: Zamalek end Dreams’ fairytale run to reach final

The dream is over for Dreams FC. The Ghanaian fairytale makers saw their remarkable journey in the TotalEnergies CAF Confederation Cup brought to a shuddering halt by the ruthless cutting edge of Zamalek.

After a goalless first leg in Cairo, Hamza Mathlouthi’s early opener set the Egyptian giants on their way to a 3-0 victory in Kumasi that secured their place in the final with an emphatic dismissal of the competition’s surprise package.

Samson Akinyoola’s sumptuous volley and a late Mustafa Shalaby strike put the seal on a professional away performance as Zamalek underlined their status as continental heavyweights.

For Dreams, an inaugural tilt at African club football’s second-tier competition ends with their heads held high, even if this humbling defeat will sting for some time to come.

Having already dumped out Mali heavyweights Stade Malien en route to the last four, the Ghanaians arrived in Kumasi buoyed by belief they could create yet another monumental upset.

Those hopes were swiftly extinguished, however, as Mathlouthi continued his hobby of scoring by powering home a back-post header to silence the fans in Kumasi.

The Tunisian defender had netted in Zamalek’s first leg quarter-final success over Modern Future, he repeated the trick after just 12 minutes to put the White Knights firmly in control of the tie.

Akinyoola’s magical left-footed strike just after the midway point of the first half then left Dreams needing to score three times to keep their dream alive.

Experienced striker John Antwi and young Abdul Aziz Issah fluffed good scoring opportunities to bring Dreams FC back into the game before Zamalek goalkeeper Mohamed Awad pulled two saves to deny the home side.

The outstanding Omar Gaber and the tireless Hossam Abdelmaguid went close to increasing Zamalek’s advantage before the break as Zamalek turned the screw with their trademark mix of power and guile.

Any hopes Dreams harboured of a miraculous comeback were effectively extinguished just before the hour mark, when Shalaby broke his six-month scoring drought in clinical fashion.

The winger had not found the net since October but kept his composure after being slipped in to drill past the helpless Solomon Agbasi and complete the scoring.

For much of the second period it was a case of attack versus defence as Zamalek threatened to run riot while Dreams desperately sought to restore some respectability to the scoreline.

In the end, their historic continental run was ended in abrupt fashion by a Zamalek side painfully clinical on the counter with the Egyptian heavyweights marching on into yet another continental final.


Daraja Kapoor

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