Ismaily risk slipping out of the three-horse race for the Egyptian Premier League title after a first-half goal from Nigerian striker Musa Kabiru condemned them to a 1-0 home loss to Arab Contractors on Sunday.
The Dervishes, who are eager to win their first league title since 2002, were expected to easily overcome relegation-threatened Contractors but some woeful defending at the back and wastefulness upfront cost them dearly.
They remain third in the league table with 38 points but leaders Zamalek can move five points clear of them if they beat Smouha later in the day.
Contractors boosted their survival hopes after moving into the safety zone, at least for one day before the other bottom teams play on Monday.
ENPPI’s hopes of breaking into the top four suffered a blow after they surrendered their lead to draw 1-1 with Masr lel Maqassa while Masry played out a goalless draw with El-Entag El-Harby.
Kabiru stunned the home crowd after 16 minutes when he caught two defenders napping to tower unmarked and head home a left-wing cross.
Ismaily piled on pressure afterwards but could not find the killer instinct as they wasted a host of clear-cut opportunities. Chances went begging, thanks to the lack of a reliable striker.
Midfielder Ahmed Khairy hit the side-netting from close range, a piledriver from Egyptian international Hosni Abd-Rabou went just wide of the post and Abdullah El-Shahat’s low shot from inside the area missed the target with the goal gaping.
Contractors were dangerous on the break, however, and could have punished Ismaily’s slack defending more than once but promising midfielder Mohamed Salah, who was outstanding in Egypt’s African Youth Championship campaign, failed to apply the finishing touches despite wreaking havoc in the hosts’ backline.
Ismaily laid siege to Contractors area in the second half but lack of cutting edge continued to haunt them as they played without a recognized frontman after Mohsen Abou-Greisha, who was largely ineffective, was substituted.
The match was briefly stopped in the dying minutes after angry Ismaily supporters hurled stones onto the pitch. TV cameras caught military and police personnel confronting them in the stands.