Two late goals from Zamalek, including a Panenka-style penalty from defender Ahmed Dweidar, gave them a comeback 2-1 win over Arab Contractors in the Egyptian Premier League on Wednesday although they played with 10 men for more than 70 minutes.
Zamalek had central midfielder Tarek Hamed dismissed for a second bookable offense after 17 minutes and Contractors, managed by Zamalek icon and former Egypt boss Hassan Shehata, capitalized to grab the lead seven minutes after restart.
However, a determined Zamalek roared back when substitute Ahmed Hassan Mekki restored parity with a powerful low shot from inside the area before Dweidar, who has become a key player in central defence following the injury of Ali Gabr and Mohamed Koffi, converted from the spot after the Cairo giants were awarded a controversial penalty four minutes from time.
Zamalek's second successive win, the third from four league games, eases pressure on Portuguese coach Jesualdo Ferreira, who came in for fierce criticism from the club's outspoken chairman Mortada Mansour following a 3-2 defeat by arch rivals Ahly in the Egyptian Super Cup last month.
The defending champions moved top with 10 points but Ahly, who collected maximum nine points from three games, will leapfrog them if they beat Maqassa in Sunday's clash.
A reckless mid-air challenge by Hamed, a key player in Zamalek's starting line-up, on an opponent earned him a second booking and a red card on 16 minutes, a dismissal which gave Contractors too much space to operate around the area.
Zamalek goalkeeper Ahmed El-Shennawy blocked two shots from tight angles as Contractors poured forward to capitalize on their numerical advantage while the White Knights struggled to get the ball out of their own half when they had possession.
Jesualdo Ferreira, who made a first-half substitution by introducing defensive midfielder Ibrahim Salah to plug the gap left by Hamed's red card, opted to play without a recognized striker in the early stages of the second period after replacing lone frontman Bassem Morsi, Zamalek's top scorer last season who is yet to open his account this term.
Three skilful deep-lying forwards failed to trouble Contractors, who took the lead on 52 minutes when El-Ghannam was left unmarked on the edge of the area to meet a poor defensive clearance with a low curling shot that beat El-Shennawi in the bottom corner.
Ferreira introduced striker Mekki and the new arrival linked up well with the likes of Mahmoud Kahraba, Mostafa Fathi and Ayman Hefni as Zamalek notably improved after falling behind.
Mekki repaid the faith of his manager when he leveled the score on 74 minutes, making the most of a deft pass from Fathi to send a powerful low shot in the far bottom corner from a difficult angle.
Zamalek were awarded a soft penalty with four minutes remaining when Contractors goalkeeper Mahmoud Aboul-Saoud mis-judged a free kick and ended up inadvertently hitting defender Islam Gamal with both hands.
Dweidar scored with a dinked shot down the middle known as a "Panenka", named after the former Czechoslovakia player who is credited with pioneering the technique, to spark wild celebrations among his teammates.
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