Zamalek secured a much-needed morale-boosting 2-1 Egyptian league victory over Alexandria’s Ittihad ahead of their crucial CAF Champions League clash with Libya’s Ahli Tripoli.
Following the unrest that hit the club in the wake of their low-key 3-1 African defeat at Zimbabwe’s CAPS United, which left them bottom of their group, Zamalek were in need of a win to calm things down ahead of Sunday’s must-win final Group B game.
A debatable Mostafa Fathi goal in the 69th minute and a Bassem Morsi penalty nine minutes from the end of regular time meant Zamalek looked en route to victory – relieving the pressure mounted on manager Augusto Inacio.
But a stoppage-time goal from substitute Mohamed Abdel-Meguid meant that Zamalek needed to retain their concentration till the final whistle to avoid another back-to-back defeat.
After losing the league title to defending champions Ahly and conceding second place to Maqassa, Zamalek now secured a Confederation Cup-qualifying third-place finish with just one game, against their Cairo rivals, remaining.
The Whites are now on 66 points, seven ahead of fourth-placed Masry – who would still fail to bridge the gap should Zamalek lose to Ahly and be deducted three points - for forfeiting a game against Maqassa - at the end of the campaign.
Zamalek were the first to pose threat on goal, with midfielder Salah Riko making a good run into the box before heading over the bar following a fine team-move in the 10th minute.
Lone striker Emmanuel Mayuka then saw a free kick blocked by the Ittihad keeper El-Hani Soliman ten minutes later, with Zamalek looking the more dangerous side.
But the most dangerous chance of the half belonged to the Alexandrians, with the Zamalek post denying Mohamed Osama a sitter - with the forward failing to score with the goal at his mercy three minutes after the half-hour mark.
The Cairo giants had to wait till the 69th minute to score through Fathi, who slotted past the keeper following a great one-two with the skillful Ayman Hefni – who looked to have been in an offside position.
Substitute Morsi then added the second from the spot after the ball was clearly handled by defender Marwan El-Naggar inside the area, with the Zamalek striker sending the keeper the wrong way.
Zamalek eased off in the closing stages and should have been punished by the visitors – who indeed pulled one back through Abdel-Meguid after a fine acrobatic effort from ex-Zamalek hitman Khaled Kamar towards the substitute’s path.
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