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Zamalek overcome Enyimba, waterlogged pitch to open CL group with victory

Bassem Morsi headed the winner to give Zamalek a vital Champions League group-stage away victory at Nigeria's Enyimba

Omar Zaazou , Sunday 19 Jun 2016
Zamalek defense duo Ali Gabr and Ahmed Dwidar fighting for the ball with Enymiba forward Joseph Osadiaye (Photo: Ahram)
Views: 2288
Views: 2288

Zamalek opened their CAF Champions League group-stage campaign with victory for the first time since 2002, after edging out Nigeria's Enyimba 1-0 on an extremely waterlogged pitch away from home on Sunday.

A seventh-minute header from striker Bassem Morsi gave Zamalek their vital opening win at the two-time African champions in Port Harcourt, where a muddy pitch hampered normal ball movement, as the visitors continually resorted to kicking the ball high forward.

The other Group B game saw Mamelodi Sundowns beat Algeria's ES Setif 2-0 away from home on Saturday before the referee called off the game due to pitch invasion by the home fans.

Five-time African champions Zamalek, who last won the title in 2002, have not moved beyond the group stage since facing arch-rivals Ahly in the semis in 2005.

Waterlogged pitch

In a game that was played on a drenched pitch, where the players struggled to move the ball smoothly on the ground, striker Morsi headed Zamalek in front after just seven minutes on the clock.

Mohamed Ibrahim, who was deployed on the right of a three-pronged attack, played a diagonal cross with his left foot into the area, where an unmarked Morsi headed into the net past the advancing keeper.

From thereon, Zamalek retreated inside their own half in an attempt to defend their slender lead – as they had little to do move the ball forward normally on such a ground condition.

And returning keeper Ahmed El-Shennawi was there to keep his side's narrow advantage intact, denying a Kelly Kester strike in excellent fashion in the 22nd minute.   

Enyimba's Joseph Osadiaye then came close just three minutes from the break when he blasted high near the edge of the area despite facing no pressure, before missing the target from a set-piece in the last seconds of the half.  

The second half didn't bring an entirely different affair, with Zamalek defending deep and the hosts continuing to boss possession.

Enyimba's Ifeanyi Onuigbo blasted a shot high in the 59th minute when he had the chance to equalise, before keeper El-Shennawi came back to thwart forward Christian Pyagbara in the 73rd minute.

Zamalek fans then had to endure a scare in the final moments of the game when El-Shennawi was caught out of his goal – with substitute Daniel Etor eventually striking wide.

The Whites managed to hold onto their slender advantage till the end of the game, as they came up with a precious away victory against a group rival to be reckoned with.  

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