Amr Zaki, pardoned after ending a three-month dispute with Zamalek, came off the bench to help the club secure a 1-1 draw away to Tanzania’s Young Africans in the first leg of the African Champions League preliminary round on Saturday.
Zamalek have had to do without the combative striker since November when he abandoned training in protest at unpaid wages, but he looked as prolific as ever when he replaced the ineffective Ahmed Gaafar in the second half to notch up a precious equalizer.
His 74th-minute strike cancelled out Khamis Kiiza’s opener for Young Africans, who are now highly unlikely to cause an upset and eliminate five-time African champions Zamalek.
It was the first game for any Egyptian side following the Port Said disaster, which left 74 fans killed and scores injured early this month when thousands of Masry fans invaded the pitch following the end of a league game against Ahly.
The second leg will be played on 3 March in Cairo, albeit behind closed doors due a sanction imposed on Zamalek by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) following last season’s fan riots in a round of 32 match against Tunisia’s Club Africain.
Tribute to Port Said victim
All Zamalek players wore T-shirts emblazoned with the picture of Anas Mohy El-Din, the youngest member of Ahly’s hardcore supporters (Ultras Ahlawy) who died in the Port Said tragedy, before kick off as they posed for the team photo.
The visitors were outplayed in the first half, struggling to keep Young Africans at bay despite the presence of three holding midfielders.
However, Zamalek squandered an opportunity to take the lead after 27 minutes when Benin striker Razak Omotoyossi held off his marker to break through but his subsequent weak shot was blocked by the keeper.
Newly-signed winger Islam Awad was Zamalek’s liveliest performer in a dull first half but was substituted in the 36th minute after picking up an injury, making way for natural left-back Mohamed Abdel-Shafy.
The unscripted substitution took its toll on Zamalek, who fell behind few moments later.
An attempted cross by Kiiza, who was unchallenged on the right flank, flew past motionless keeper Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed and in off the crossbar, sending the home fans into raptures.
El-Sayed made amends when he blocked two goal-bound shots shortly before the break as Young Africans pressed forward to double their advantage.
Zamalek notably improved in the second half following the introduction of Zaki and pacey wing-back Hazem Emam, who wreaked havoc down the right flank.
Their efforts paid dividends with 16 minutes remaining when Zaki struck with a low shot from inside the area.
Zamalek could have snatched a late win when Emam sidestepped two defenders inside the 18-yard box but his shot was collected by the keeper.
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