Premier League defending champions St. George threw away a golden opportunity to be the first ever Ethiopian club to reach the African Champions League last eight. A 2-2 second leg draw in front of 30,000 home supporters, visiting Egyptian side Zamalek joined the group stage with an away-goal advantage after an aggregate 3-3 draw.
Taking into consideration the first leg 1-1 away draw behind closed gates in Cairo, many expected a home victory was imminent. However, the visitors, well-experienced in the competition, opted for an early attack to open the score line through Burkina Faso international Abdoulaye Cissé, who headed in the all-important goal, rising above central defender Isaac Isinde. To the fans’ surprise, the home side which came to the game with an attack mentality, stayed composed, then ten minutes later with a splendid cross from Yared Zinabu, playmaker Shimeles Bekele grabbed the equalizer.
So cautious in their movement, Zamalek managed a strong defense until the final minutes of the first half, when the goal came from an unlikely source; Isinde sent a low right-footed volley to help Saints take the lead two minutes before the break. With a wild celebration of the fans followed by the whistle, it appeared that the Horse Men were assured of a place in the quarter finals.
Back from the dressing room, German Head Coach Michael Kruger appeared to have entertained a different idea about the game, which was to play defense throughout the second half. With new faces coming onto the field, the Saints held their own. The visitors, almost sure that no surprise attack was imminent, chose an all-out attack strategy. The defensive tactic went smoothly until two minutes into the final whistle, when the right winger rounded three players and somehow managed a miraculous cross, and once again Abdoulaye Cissé rose into the air to head in the heart-breaking equalizer. The home fans were shocked into silence except for some Egyptian fans at the tribune, who went wild in celebration, and the stadium appeared like a graveyard, with the historic Easter Day to be remembered as ‘Black Sunday’ for many sports fans. Five-time champions Zamalek join champions’ League last eight and their Coach remarked that Saints paid a huge price in choosing to play defense in the second half. St. George has now joined the Confederation Cup’s last sixteen to face, once again, another Egyptian side, ENPPI, in a two-leg showdown, with the winner to proceed to the group stage.