The winning streak for Egypt's Al Ahli is over but the Cairo giants are still well on course for championship success in the country's premier division.

On Friday night, Al Masry managed to keep a clean sheet against Al Ahli, holding them to a 0-0 draw away from home. It was the first failure of the season for the club, who were named five years ago as Africa's club of the twentieth century.

Al Ahli had won their first 17 games of the Egyptian league season but their hopes winning every game in the 26-match league programme were dashed by Friday's goalless draw.

The runaway start to the season for the former African champions sees them with an incredible 20 point lead over second-placed Ismaili in Egypt's premier league. Al Ahli need just five more points from their remaining eight league matches to win back the championship from their arch-rivals Zamalek.

The Al Ahli-Zamalek rivalry is one of the fiercest in world football, where traditionally referees are flown in from Europe to officiate the game because of the partisan way in which Egyptian loyalties are split between support for the two clubs.

But this season, Zamalek are an incredible 22 points behind a side they normally compete furiously against. Al Ahli's run has been engineered by the Portuguese coach Manuel Jose, who is in his second spell with the club after helping them to win the African Champions League in 2001.

"Setting this record is not the end of the road, we are moving towards our targets step by step, and our fans are waiting for all the remaining ones, so we promise them that we will do our best to cheer them this season, each coming game will be more difficult, as opponents are becoming more eager to defeat us, but we are ready with the fans support," said Manuel Jose.

In the end, Al Ahli fell four games short of matching the longest winning streak in league football, unofficially set by Scotland's Glasgow Celtic in 2002/2004 when they won 25 consecutive matches.

Al Ahli won their last four games of last season and then 17 in a row from August until January 21.
But their disappointment is likely to have evaporated by mid-February when they meet Zamalek in the traditional Cairo derby and can then make sure of the title in emphatic fashion.