Shikabala made Zamalek’s relentless pressure count deep into stoppage time when a trademark curling free kick handed the Cairo giants a thrilling 1-0 Egyptian Premier League victory away to Alexandrian side Smouha.
The in-form winger’s strike prompted wild celebrations in the stands, and made amends for a glaring miss by striker Amr Zaki few minutes earlier.
Zamalek had earlier squandered a host of clear-cut chances as Smouha seemed close to sharing honours after surviving an onslaught throughout the second-half’s regulation time.
The match pitted former Egypt coaches Shawky Gharib and Hassan Shehata against each other for the first time after they left the national team. The latter erupted into ecstasy after the final whistle after emerging the winner in a tough contest.
Zamalek moved second in the league table with 10 points, one behind leaders and arch rivals Ahly who played a game more. Smouha remained third from bottom on two points.
Zamalek had the better possession in a cautious first half but struggled to break down a resolute Smouha defense.
Having failed to penetrate Smouha’s backline for the majority of the first period, Zamalek had to rely on some long-range shots. Ahmed Tawfik’s low shot went just wide of the post while Shikabala’s curling effort flew high over.
Zamalek’s best chance before the break fell to Mahmoud Fathallah in the 34th minute when the central defender was found by a precise Shikabala free kick at the far post but his header was palmed by Smouha’s Palestinian keeper Ramzi Saleh.
The mazy runs of Shikabala and Amr Zaki down the flanks kept Smouha defenders on their toes but the hosts, who appeared content to sit back with the hope of securing a share of spoils, were still dangerous on the break.
On the stroke of halftime, Smouha’s Cameroonian forward Marc Mboua superbly tricked Zamalek right-back Ahmed Samir and cut inside but his low shot was blocked by keeper Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed.
Barrage of attacks
Roared on by the enthusiastic visiting supporters, who continued to defy an Egyptian Football Association warning after lighting many firecrackers, Zamalek laid siege to Smouha’s area in the second half.
Smouha had to endure a barrage of attacks, with Saleh pulling off a string of impressive saves to thwart the goal-hungry Zamalek.
Zaki raced clear after robbing a defender in the 49th minute but missed the target with an angled shot before Saleh tipped over a curling free kick from Shikabala three minutes later.
Veteran midfielder Ahmed Hassan was forced off midway through the second half after picking up an injury, making way for diminutive full-back Hazem Emam.
Zamalek upped the tempo thereafter, with the combative Zaki sending a bicycle kick just wide following a pinpoint cross from Shikabala, who was equally unlucky when his left-foot volley went just wide of the post.
Zaki bizarrely missed the target with the goal gaping following a rebound in the dying minutes but Shikabala made amends with virtually the last kick of the game, leaving Saleh with no chance when his free kick sailed over the wall and into the far corner of the net in the fourth minute of stoppage time.