Determined Zamalek cleared the first of four successive hurdles after producing a spirited display to end their Harras El-Hodoud jinx on Thursday. The victory sees the White Knights continue their charge for a first league triumph since 2004.
Despite playing with ten men for the entire second half following the harsh dismissal of defender Amr El-Safti for alleged simulation, Zamalek’s relentless pressure eventually paid off as they came from a goal down to defeat El-Hodoud 2-1 in Cairo.
It was the Cairo giant's first victory over El-Hodoud since coach Hossam Hassan took over in late 2009, thanks to a delicate lob from midfielder Ashour El-Adham that left the keeper stranded with nine minutes remaining.
“My players were determined to win regardless of the numerical disadvantage, which was not fair,” Hassan, who was a prolific striker when Zamalek won their last league title seven years ago, told the post-match news conference.
“The referee’s mistakes could have cost us (that win) but our spirited display prevailed and gave us a valuable win.”
League leaders Zamalek boast a five-point advantage over second-placed Ismaily and are six ahead of arch-rivals Ahly, Egypt’s undisputed number one club who are eyeing a seventh consecutive league crown.
The White Knights could edge closer to a 12th league title if they overcome three tough opponents in ENPPI, Petrojet and Ismaily in the coming few weeks.
“We are determined to win the league. We clearly showed our worth against a strong El-Hodoud team,” Hassan added.
Lively and energetic
Zamalek proved too strong for El-Hodoud, who could not cope with a lively and energetic performance by their opponents.
The Alexandria-based club huffed and puffed as Zamalek’s fresh youngsters, whose fitness levels appeared as high as ever despite more than two months without league action, dominated the entire game.
The hosts were further helped by the introduction of in-form wizard Mahmoud Abdel-Razek “Shikabala”, who came on in the second half to inject zeal and add his trademark touch of glamour.
“Shikabala did not start because he was not ready. He did not travel with the team to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia (for friendly games),” Hassan said of the talented but temperamental 25-year-old, whose disciplinary problems have, in the past, hindered his progress.
Reports have suggested that French side Lille are lining up a bid for the attacking midfielder, whose contract expires at the end of the year.
For Zamalek fans, the hope is that he doesn’t go before helping the club end their league drought.