A wasteful Zamalek side were defeated 2-0 by a valiant USM Alger in the CAF Champions League group stage in Algiers on early Thursday.
Late goals either side of the interval from Reda Bellahcene and Abderrahmane Meziane condemned the Whites to their first defeat of their group stage campaign, slipping to third spot of Group B after initially entering the game on top.
Both teams were reduced to ten men in the 60th minute when Tarek Hamed received a second booking for a fierce foul on Amir Sayoud, who in turn was given a straight red for his reaction.
USM Alger are now at the summit of the table with seven points, two ahead of the third-placed Cairo side.
After beating CAPS United 3-2, Ahly Tripoli are now second level on points with USM Alger.
Morsi, Tawfik guilty of missing sitters
Zamalek started strongly in the first half, with sole striker Bassem Morsi coming close to giving his side the lead in the fifth minute when he saw his effort from inside the area cleared off the line.
The hosts replied just two minutes later through Meziane whose header went high over the bar.
As the game went on, Zamalek’s strategy became clear: leaving the Algerians possession while organizing themselves at the back.
Zamalek had the chance to make up for their missed chance early in the half, after a good team-move ended up with midfielder Ahmed Tawfik missing a one-on-one opportunity four minutes after the half-hour mark.
With the Cairo giants enduring their opponents’ wave after wave of attacks, thanks to some solid defending from center-back duo Ali Gabr and Mahmoud Hamdi, it seemed inevitable the Algerians would score.
And the goal came just one minute from time when an unmarked Bellahcene headed easily past Zamalek keeper Ahmed El-Shennawi following a free-kick from the right.
Meziane terrific curler settle the tie
Like the first half, Zamalek were the first to waste just a few minutes after the restart, with Stanley Ohawuchi culpable this time of missing a header while being unmarked at the far post following a Shikabala free-kick.
Carlos Andriamatsinoro was even guiltier than his Zamalek counterpart in the 57th minute when he missed the target from close range when it looked certain to score.
Just three minutes later, both teams were reduced to ten men, after Hamed trampled on Sayoud’s leg from behind, which provoked an angry reaction from the Algerian who attempted to shove the Egypt holder.
After consulting his assistant, the referee showed Hamed a second booking to give him his marching orders, with ex-Ahly playmaker Sayoud receiving a straight red card for his response.
Zamalek continued to pile up the pressure in search for the equalizer, with Shikabala seeing a shot that looked destined towards goal cleared off by a defender just before the goal-line.
The Algerians, on the other side, wasted further chances, with defender Farouk Chafai missing a sitter on the rebound after El-Shennawi denied a header from Ayoub Abdellaoui.
On the other end of the pitch, it was time for keeper Mohamed Zemmamouche to come to his side’s rescue, denying a Mostafa Fathi volley from near the edge of the box before thwarting Shikabala just a minute later.
But it was USM who eventually managed to find the net through Meziane who capitalized on the spaces left in Zamalek’s backline, after manager Augusto Inacio converted to a three-man backline, to curl a terrific ball past keeper El-Shennawi.
The Algerian side had further chances to score more goals if it wasn’t for some sloppy finishing, as they eventually managed to move top of the group.
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