Shikabala once again came to Zamalek’s rescue with a virtuoso display to give them a crucial 3-1 comeback victory over Ittihad El-Shorta which helped them move three points clear at the top of the table, at least for one day.
Subdued in the first half, the league top scorer showcased his undoubted talent after the break to take his tally to 13 goals and help Zamalek recover from a goal down after El-Shorta secured the lead through a goal from striker Salah Ashour two minutes before halftime.
Shikabala restored parity 11 minutes after the interval before goals from striker Ahmed Gaafar and youngster Mohamed Ibrahim ensured the win as Zamalek atoned for their surprise 1-0 defeat by Maqassa in their previous match.
El-Shorta, who adopted a fruitful defensive strategy in the first half but stumbled after the break, suffered their third straight defeat following losses to Ismaily and ENPPI. They slipped to seventh place in the league table with 36 points.
Zamalek, who are chasing their first triumph since 2004, have 49 points, three ahead of arch-rivals Ahly who can bridge the gap if they beat Petrojet in Friday’s game.
El-Shorta took the initiative with an early attempt on goal from Nigerian midfielder Maarouf Yussuf, whose close-range shot was denyed by Zamalek’s in-form keeper Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed.
Zamalek tried to pile on pressure and managed to gain possession but couldn’t create any threat on their opponent’s keeper Ahmed Saad.
With acres of spaces exposed in Zamalek’s backline, Maarouf combined with Salah Ashour to send him clear on goal but he couldn’t beat El-Sayed to waste a golden opportunity to break the deadlock.
In the 43rd minute Ayman Saied dispossessed Hussein Yasser in midfield then set up El-Shorta’s opener, slicing open Zamalek defence with a neat pass as Ashour gathered the ball and chipped it over El-sayed to give the hosts a deserved lead.
Zamalek coach Hossam Hassan made two substitutions as Hani Saied and Mohamed Ibrahim replaced Alaa Ali and Ibrahim Salah respectively.
Zamalek soon took control as El-Shorta were pinned back. Shikabala finally leveled the score in the 56th minute when one of his trademark 25-yard free-kicks beat keeper Saad at his near post.
Four minutes later, the Whites’ wizard punished El-Shorta’s defenders for failing to keep a close eye on him as he ghosted into the area to pull the ball back to striker Ahmed Gaafar, who notched home from close range to give Zamalek the lead.
El-Shorta recovered from their shaky display in the second half and pushed forward to grab the equalizer.
Mohamed El-Fayoumi, Abdallah Farouk and Salah Ashour forced Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed into some superb saves before Zamalek made sure of the win deep in stoppage time.
Mohamed Ibrahim latched onto a through pass to break the offside trap and jink into the area. He skipped past his marker and netted home with aplomb to send Zamalek fans into ecstasy.