An early goal by Benin striker Razak Omotoyossi handed lacklustre Zamalek a 1-0 home win over Ivory Coast’s Africa Sports in the first leg of the African Champions League round of 32 on Sunday.
The match was played behind closed doors at Cairo’s Military Academy Stadium as Zamalek served the second of a two-match crowd ban imposed by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) following the fan riots which ruined their home game against Tunisia’s Club Africain last year.
The start of the second half was delayed for around 15 minutes as the referee demanded that some journalists leave the stands allocated for spectators.
Zamalek, who won the last of their five Champions League titles in 2002, are likely to face a stiff challenge to preserve their first-leg lead when they play Africa Sports in Ivory Coast in a fortnight.
They needed 38 seconds to open the scoring when a deep cross by winger Mahmoud Abdel-Razek “Shikabala” found the unmarked Omotoyossi, who neatly flicked the ball past Africa Sports keeper before slotting into an empty net.
But the hosts offered little threat going forward, appearing largely affected by having to play mainly friendly matches since the infamous Port Said disaster which forced the cancellation of the Egyptian Premier League.
However, they could have doubled their lead on the stroke of halftime when Hazem Emam ran down the right before whipping in a cross that picked out striker Amr Zaki, whose close-range volley hit the outside of the post.
A drab second half saw both sides struggle to mount any threats.
Zamalek had to thank goalkeeper Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed for blocking a goal-bound volley six minutes after the restart as Africa Sports created their sole goal-scoring chance in the game.
The White Knights failed to extend their advantage, leaving their progress to the last 16 uncertain.
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