Defending champions Ahly survived a late scare to see off Wadi Degla and claim a precious 2-1 win, cutting Zamalek’s lead down to nine points on Monday.
The Red Devils looked to be heading to a comfortable victory as Amr El-Sulaya opened the scoring in the 17th minute and Tunisia’s left back Ali Maaloul doubled their lead just past the hour mark.
However Wadi Degla grabbed a lifeline as Mohamed Helal scored an 86th-minute penalty to pile pressure on their visitors during the final minutes.
The victory is Martin Lasarte’s second in three league games to put Ahly on 33 points from 16 games with Zamalek on 42 points from 17 games.
They are still third but Ahly are gaining momentum with the second half of the season still ahead.
Ahly welcomed back defender defender Saad Samir, striker Salah Mohsen and winger Gerlado who have been out with injuries.
But still it was a difficult night as January signings Yasser Ibrahim and Ramadan Sobhi have been stretched off with injuries.
Ahly had an early sight of goal in the fourth minute when Ramadan Sobhi controlled a precise pass from Hussein El-Shahat, rounded the keeper but hit the side netting from a very tight angle.
Lasarte’s men maintained their high pressing until finally they got what they deserved in the 17th minute. After making a trademark overlapping run on the left flank, Maaloul picked up Amr El-Sulaya with a low cross whose excellent first touch beat keeper Mohamed Abdel-Monsef.
Ahly could have extended their lead when Nigerian striker Junior Ajayi turned in a rebound of a shot from El-Sulaya but he was ruled offside.
Wadi Degla gained composure midway the first half after a slow start. Ahly’s keeper Mohamed El-Shennawi was forced to make some stretches as he blocked Helal’s shot from inside the box and denied a clear chance from Ibrahima N’Diaye to maintain his team’s lead at the break.
Two second-half goals
After the interval, Degla dominated the game in terms of possession but failed to carve spaces in Ahly’s compact defense.
While the hosts pressed up high the pitch, Sobhi latched onto a long pass by El-Shahat to overpower two defenders before being brought down by Ahmed “Beckham” Ramadan.
Specialist Maaloul saw his penalty kick blocked but sent the rebound back in to double his team’s lead.
And while the game looked sealed, El-Shennawi brought down, needlessly, Bouzas Vasilis in the area allowing Helal to score from the spot with four minutes left.
Ahly held on during a nervy finish of the game to claim the full points.
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)