Zamalek, with Brazilian coach Jorvan Vieira back in the dugout following a lengthy absence, made it two wins out of two after snatching a late 3-2 victory over Ittihad El-Shorta in an exciting Egyptian Premier League game on Saturday.
Lone striker Ahmed Gaafar, who usually shoulders goal-scoring burdens given the absence of established frontmen in Zamalek’s squad, powered a header home with one minute remaining to give the Cairo side their second consecutive win after they defeated Ittihad of Alexandria last week.
Four goals were scored in a thrilling first half, with Zamalek taking the lead through left-back Mohamed Abdel-Shafy only for Mohamed Maged to draw El-Shorta level shortly after.
A controversial penalty helped Khaled Qamar put El-Shorta in front but Zamalek’s promising 20-year-old forward Mohamed Ibrahim equalised on the stroke of halftime.
Vieira took charge of Zamalek for the first time this season after returning from the United Arab Emirates, where he stayed longer than scheduled during the Egyptian league’s lengthy suspension, fuelling reports that he would depart.
Zamalek top Group B with maximum six points from two games. El-Shorta have three points.
In a new two-group format, the winners of the two groups will advance to play a mini-league with only home fixtures to determine the champion. The competition is being played behind closed doors at military-owned stadiums due to security concerns.
Zamalek, wearing a pink away kit that drew mockery on social network, attacked with panache in an entertaining first half but were vulnerable at the back, with the presence of one holding midfielder in their attacking line-up giving their opponents the chance to launch a wave of counter attacks.
They took the lead after 16 minutes when the in-form Ibrahim, one of Egypt’s hottest prospects, threaded a fine pass to onrushing left-back Abdel-Shafy who rounded the keeper and slotted into an empty net.
El-Shorta needed eight minutes to level the score when forward Maged outpaced Zamalek’s central defender Mahmoud Fathallah, who made a sliding tackle in an attempt to thwart his subsequent shot but could only loop it past his own keeper Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed following a long ball.
The police-owned outfit were awarded a controversial penalty four minutes before the break when Mohamed El-Sadat went down under an apparent challenge from Salah Soliman. Television replays showed there was no contact between both players.
Qamar, who caused Zamalek’s shaky defence constant troubles with his pace, sent El-Sayed the wrong way to put El-Shorta in front.
However, their celebrations were short-lived after Ibrahim restored parity when he slid in to convert a low cross from Omar Gaber which evaded El-Shorta’s keeper.
A dull second half saw Zamalek struggle to carve out goal-scoring opportunities but Gaafar came to their rescue at the death with a superb header following a neat cross from new signing Ahmed Eid.
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