Defending champions Ahly paid for their wastefulness to draw 0-0 at Masry in the Egyptian Premier League on Friday following pre-match violent clashes which marred the build-up to the game.
The Red Devils squandered some easy chances to share spoils with Masry and miss out on the chance of narrowing the gap with leaders and arch-rivals Zamalek.
Ahly, who welcomed back veteran midfielder Ahmed Hassan following a lengthy injury lay-off, had defender Wael Gomaa dismissed in the dying minutes for a last-man foul on an opponent.
Zamalek are on top of the 16-team table with 39 points, five ahead of second-placed Ismaily and six clear of Ahly, who could not capitalize on the White Knights’ goalless draw with ENPPI earlier this week.
Few hours before the match, the visiting Ahly supporters clashed with Masry fans as riots broke out and left scores injured from both sides.
There were rumors the match would be delayed but police and military forces intervened to put an end to an ugly melee that left Ahly’s die-hard fans besieged in Port Said’s train station for several hours.
Reports have said that a handful of shops and cafes were destroyed following the violent clashes.
The atmosphere was much calmer at Masry’s stadium, however, as the trouble-free match only witnessed vociferous chants from the enthusiastic fans.
Inspired by evergreen midfielder Mohamed Barakat, Ahly launched a wave of attacks in the first half but lacked the killer instinct, with sluggish duo Mohamed Abou-Treika, who looked way past his prime, and Osama Hosni failing to apply the finishing touches.
Masri had the first chance though when Ahly keeper Ahmed Adel tipped over a backward header from playmaker Abdel-Salam Nagah, who was later substituted due to injury.
Ahly gained the upper hand afterwards, with Barakat and Hosni wasting a couple of goal-scoring chances amid poor defending from the hosts.
A neat one-two between Hosni and Barakat released the latter but his left-foot shot hit the side netting after 18 minutes.
One minute before the break, Barakat returned the favor with a superb through pass to the lone striker, who dithered on the ball and eventually sent a weak shot that missed the target.
Hassan is back
Ahly coach Manuel Jose introduced Egypt skipper Hassan, who ruptured anterior cruciate ligaments in his knee in September last year, instead of Abou-Treika who was a peripheral figure in the first half.
Hassan injected zeal but Ahly still struggled for efficiency and hardly threatened Masry until talented Algerian playmaker Amir Sayoud came on instead of Barakat with quarter an hour remaining.
Sayoud, who produced a promising display in Ahly’s 1-0 win over El-Geish, caused constant menace to Masry’s backline and almost broke the deadlock five minutes from time following a brilliant individual effort.
He neatly controlled a Sayed Moawad cross after a breakaway, tricked a challenger with an eye-catching feint but blasted his shot over the bar with the goal at his mercy.
Ahly’s Gomaa was sent off shortly afterwards after tripping substitute Ehab El-Masry on the edge of the area and Masry were unlucky not to score from the ensuing free kick.
Hossam Hassan’s curling effort struck the upright as the match ended goalless.