Cash-strapped Zamalek finally found something to cheer about after securing a deserved 3-1 victory over Arab Contractors in the Egyptian Premier League on Wednesday.
Veteran midfielder Ahmed Hassan converted a controversial penalty midway through the first half to put Zamalek in front but right-back Bassem Aly drew Contractors level eight minutes before halftime after capitalizing on a defensive lapse.
Egypt skipper Hassan, who equaled the international appearances record when he played in a friendly against Brazil last month, headed home early in the second half to restore Zamalek’s lead and take his tally to six league goals.
Ahmed Samir wrapped up the victory with two minutes remaining as Zamalek, who had midfielder Ahmed Tawfik sent off for a second bookable offence in the 79th minute, claimed a much-needed win.
The Cairo club had to play without striker Amr Zaki and right wing-back Hazem Emam after both players lodged a complaint with the Egyptian Football Association (EFA), claiming they had not been paid for months.
The diminutive Emam incurred the wrath of Zamalek after joining Saudi Arabia’s Faisaly without their consent.
The victory put Zamalek, who last won the league in 2004, in fifth place with 13 points, three behind leaders Harras El-Hodoud who played a game more. Contractors are 16th on just three points.
Earlier in the day, Maqassa continued their fine start to the season, moving second after a 2-1 comeback win over ENPPI while Ittihad El-Shorta claimed their second consecutive victory after beating Bani Suef Telephones 2-0.
Zamalek dominated possession in the early stages, with a series of swift passes giving them the upper hand.
However, they barely created a goal-scoring chance until they were awarded a highly controversial penalty after 21 minutes when Aly Fathi was adjudged to have brought down winger Mahmoud Abdel-Razek “Shikabala”.
Television replays showed there was a minimal contact between both players but the protests of Contractors players were to no avail. Hassan’s spot kick struck the hands of keeper Mohamed El-Akabawy and went into the bottom corner as Zamalek went ahead.
Contractors’ first chance came after 32 minutes when a curling free-kick from ex-Zamalek midfielder Alaa Kamal went just over the crossbar. He made amends five minutes later when he set up Aly for the equalizer.
Kamal’s superb long ball found Aly, who caught napping Zamalek’s stand-in left-back Sabri Rahil to break clear and fire a low shot which squeezed under the body of goalkeeper Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed.
The lively Shikabala wreaked havoc in the defence of Contractors after the break, leaving defenders trailing in his wake with his mesmerizing runs.
He helped Zamalek restore their advantage in the 51st minute when his pinpoint cross found Hassan, who beat his marker to send a superbly-executed header past El-Akabawy and into the net.
Towering striker Ahmed Gaafar, who was deployed on his own upfront due to Zaki’s absence, came close to adding the third in the 65th minute with a low shot that went just wide of the post.
Zamalek created a flurry of late chances despite the dismissal of Tawfik, who received his marching orders following a clumsy tackle on an opponent, as Samir made sure of victory in the 88th minute following a quickly-taken free kick.
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