Egyptian giants SC Zamalek have crashed out of the Caf Champions League less than five months after being defeated in 2020 final.
The Cairene heavyweights downed Senegal’s FC Teungueth 4-1 in their final group fixture on Saturday and appeared to be taking a giant step towards the knockout stages.
However, the result of the other group game—as Esperance was held 1-1 at home by Mouloudia Club d’Alger—ensured that Zamalek ended the stage in third place in the group.
The draw in the other match proved to be enough for MC Alger to progress alongside already qualified Esperance, regardless of Zamalek’s result, and there was much chagrin among the Egyptian giants’ technical bench at the performance of their two North African rivals.
Following MC Alger’s equaliser, the two sides appeared to play out the rest of their fixture at a much reduced intensity, knowing that the result would see one of the tournament favourites fall while the Algerians progressed alongside Esperance.
Heading into the final group game, Esperance led the group with 10 points from five matches, with MC Alger second on eight and Zamalek third on five.
Teungueth, despite defeating Esperance at home earlier this month, we’re already eliminated on four points with one match to play.
While the only victory would be enough for Zamalek to stand a chance of progression, MC Alger knew that they would progress if they avoided defeat, regardless of the White Knight’s result.
To Zamalek’s credit, they bounced back to stand a chance of progression following a woeful start to the group stage in which they took just two points from their opening four fixtures, although group-stage elimination will prompt an inquisition at the 2020 finalists.
They got the job done on Saturday with a resounding victory over Teungueth.
Mahmoud El Wensh opened the scoring with a header in the 16th minute following a superb assist from Shikabala, before Marwan Hamdy added another nine minutes later to give the hosts control of the contest.
Hamdy and El Wensh added another goal each before halftime, as Zamalek killed their contest before attention turned to the other match in the group, where Esperance took a 1-0 lead against MC Alger.
With the Tunisians leading thanks to Nassim Ben Khalifa’s opener, Zamalek was on course to progress, only for Abdenour Belkheir to equalize for the Algerians in the 68th minute as they progressed at the Egyptian side’s expense.
Despite their poor fortunes this time around, Zamalek is one of the most successful teams in the history of the African game.
They are five-time African champions, having also clinched the Confederation Cup, the Super Cup, and the African Cup Winners’ Cup.
Tout Puissant Mazembe, AS Vita Club, Al Merreikh and Al Hilal are some of the other big names to have fallen at the group stage of the competition.