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Libyan Football League: Defending Champions Ittihad Win Derby to Replace Ahli Tripoli at the Top
04/01/2011 09:14:00
Sapol Mani (extreme left) scorer of the winning goal helps his defenders, captain Younis Shebani and Marwaan Mabrouk to shut out Ahli Tripoli's Ahmed Sa'ad in the Tripoli derby

It took defending champions Ittihad only eight minutes to score the goal through Mani Sapol that enabled them to leapfrog over their cross-town rivals Ahli Tripoli into the highest position in the league table for the first time since the second week of the season. They lead on goal difference and also have two games in hand. It was enough them victory in the 77th Tripoli Clásico.

Ittihad v Ahli Tripoli 1-0
(Sapol 8’)

Ahli Tripoli had not beaten their rivals since a 2-1 victory in the Libyan Cup in May 2006, with their last league victory stretching way back to March 2002. Their last ‘away’ win against Ittihad was just under ten years ago. February 22nd, 2001 is the last time Ahli emerged victorious as the visiting team.

Supporters of both clubs were out in force at the June 11 Stadium. They had been filing through the turnstiles since early morning and by match time had created an intimidating cauldron atmosphere in the capital.

The game began at a frenetic pace, with the Tripoli sunshine making for ideal conditions for such an important match to be played in. Both defences were pushed fairly high up the pitch, with the long ball in behind exploited by the home side in the early stages.

Ittihad created the first scoring opportunity when Nigerien striker Daouda Kamilou was put through by Abdulnaser al Saleel, but couldn’t get his shot away. The diminutive forward was crowded out in the area.

From the resulting corner, Jibreel Buqrmaoui could only head out as far as Sapol Mani, and the young Togolese midfielder showed why he’s one of the rising talents in African football. He chested the ball before blasting an unstoppable effort into the top corner of Jum’aa Q’tait’s goal, sparking wild celebrations among the ‘Tehaa faithful. Mani’s all-important goal eventually decided the 77th Tripoli Clásico in Ittihad’s favour.

Ahli Tripoli found themselves behind once more in the derby, and though they dominated the remainder of the first half struggled to get going following such an early setback,. Muhammad al Maghrabi’s cross from the left found top scorer Muhammad al Ghanoudi unmarked in the area, but the young forward could only power his header straight into the arms of Muftaah Ghazala.

Al Maghrabi caused problems in the champions defence on the left hand side, whipping in some excellent crosses that the Ittihad defence dealt with comfortably. The winger’s zipping shot just past the half hour could only be parried by Ghazala, and Ahmed Sa’ad, subdued to say the least in this match, was unable to find a finish from such a tight angle.

The home side came back just a minute later, and Q’tait had to be at his best, a double save denying Muhammad Mouneer and Ihaab Bousseffi the chance to extend the lead.

The visitors started the second half the brighter, and should have had an equaliser on 53 minutes. Zakariyya Ellafi got in behind on the right, and pulled back for al Ghanoudi, who hit the post when he perhaps should have scored. Rabee’ Ellafi was the next to go close, beating two men with some wonderful footwork before his weak left foot shot was easily saved by Muftaah Ghazala.

Ittihad, playing predominantly on the counter attack in the second half, had a golden chance to make the game safe when substitute Marwaan Mabrouk found Kamilou free in the area, but the striker was too casual, stroking his shot into the grateful arms of Q’tait.

With just under ten minutes to go, Sa’ad finally showed what he was capable of by splitting the defence to send al Ghanoudi clean through on goal; the striker should have squared it to Salim Aballu but went for glory from a tight angle and his shot was blocked.

Muhammad al Maghrabi’s injury time effort shaved the bar on its way over as the final whistle prompted mass celebrations amongst the fans. The heavy police presence maintained order and kept the fans’ behaviour at the derby in check.

Tahaddi v Swaihili 1-1
(Akram Ayyad 51’) (Wessam Boktef ’25)

The match between Tahaddi and Swaihili, two teams that this early in the season are already struggling for survival finished with honours shared at 1-1. Although as a result of the final score at the Hugo Chavez Stadium the two sides earned a point, it did not do any of them much good as their position in the league table has not improved.

The game did not offer any hope for a better future for these sides. However, Swaihili’s supporters must have thought their team could overturn the hosts’ applecart and start climbing the league ladder when they took the lead on 25 minutes through Wessam Boktef.

Swaihili even managed to survive some pressure as Tahaddi made a reaction to get back on level terms, but then six minutes into the second half they succumbed to the pressure and conceded the equaliser that was scored by Akram Ayyad.

It was a well deserved goal for the home team, but they need do more to improve their position and get away from the dreaded relegation zone

Bara Taufik

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