Forgotten man Hefni powers leaders Zamalek to hard-earned 1-0 Egyptian league win

Hatem Maher , Saturday 9 Feb 2019

File photo of Zamalek playmaker Ayman Hefni (Ahram)

Forgotten playmaker Ayman Hefni scored with his first kick after coming on as a substitute as Zamalek continued their perfect Egyptian Premier League run with a hard-fought 1-0 win over resolute Nogoom on Saturday.

The veteran schemer, making only his second league appearance this season and his first since the opening day draw with Petrojet last July, fired home from close range after a defensive mistake in the 71st minute to hand Zamalek a precious victory.

Hefni's strike marked a sweet revenge for the White Knights, whose only league defeat so far this season came at the hands of promoted Nogoom in August last year.

They also allayed fears over their form after suffering a stunning 4-2 defeat at Kenya's Gor Mahia in their opening CAF Confederation Cup group-stage clash last week.

Zamalek played with a bold formation featuring only one holding midfielder in the attacking-minded Ferjani Sassi but they looked bereft of ideas without suspended winger Mahmoud Kahraba.

Nogoom gave a debut to 46-year-old goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary, who has recently backtracked on a decision to retire, and he pulled off a couple of fine saves towards the end although he looked shaky at times.  

Zamalek have 48 points from 19 games, six ahead of second-placed Pyramids FC who played two matches more. Defending champions Ahly have 39 points in third and one game in hand over Zamalek.

Without the mercurial Kahraba, Zamalek struggled for creativity in the final third despite a firm attacking strategy adopted by Swiss coach Christian Gross.

They only had two half-chances in a drab first half, with Mahmoud Alaa heading over the bar after a mistake from El-Hadary and Tunisian midfielder Sassi sending a curling free kick just wide on the stroke of halftime.

Zamalek notably improved after the break, piling on pressure and carving out openings as Nogoom found it hard to remain resolute in the face of waves of attacks.

Moroccan winger Hamid Ahaddad, who made his first start with the club, rattled the bar with a powerful strike after beating his marker in the 54th minute.

Five minutes later, lone striker Omar El-Said also came close with a stunning bicycle kick after a superb control with his back to goal.

The pressure paid dividends when midfielder Youssef Ibrahim gathered a loose ball and jinked into the area before crossing low for Hefni, who made the most of Amr El-Sisi's failure to clear the danger to fire the winner.

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