Zamalek on brink of Champions League exit after home defeat to Esperance

Ahram Online , Tuesday 16 Mar 2021

Zamalek are in a critical situation after Esperance loss as they almost need a miracle to reach quarters

Soccer Football - African Champions League - Group Stage - Group D - Zamalek v Esperance Sportive de Tunis - Cairo International Stadium, Cairo, Egypt - March 16, 2021 Esperance Sportive de Tunis' Basit Abdul Khalid in action with Zamalek's Mahmoud Gennesh REUTERS

Zamalek hopes of reaching the Champions League quarter finals became nearly impossible after losing 1-0 to Tunisian side Esperance at Cairo stadium on Tuesday.

A disappointing start for Frenchman Patrice Carteron on his return succeeding to Portuguese manager Jaime Pacheco who was dismissed last week.

Libyan winger Hamdi El-Houni scored the winner in the 73rd minute, firing his side to the competition's last eight after a deserved win.

The White Knights remain third with just two points after four games, six points behind leaders Esperance. 

Algerian side MC Alger are second with eight points after defeating Teungueth of Senegal 1-0 on Tuesday.

Zamalek have a mountain to climb as they must win their two remaining games, including their away tie against MC Alger, and the latter lose their two games.

Despite being desperate for a win, Zamalek started the game with a slow rhythm, giving the chance to the visitors to control the game.

The hosts appeared toothless during the first half as they failed to make any real threat to the Esperance keeper Farouk Ben Moustafa.

Esperance could have gone up before the break when El-Houni skipped past right-back Ahmed Eid to go clear on target only to be denied by keeper Gennesh.

Carteron introduced midfielders Emam Ashour and Mahmoud 'Shikabala' Abdel-Razek after the interval to pile more pressure on the visitors but Zamalek failed to find the cracks in Esperance's compact defence.

Zamalek had their first real chance on goal in the 50th minute when Achraf Bencharki curled in a 25-yard free kick but it was deflected into the corner by Ben Moustafa.

The decisive moment was in the 73rd minute when El Houni received an excellent pass from Hamdi Nagguez on the edge of the area to send a well-placed shot into the bottom of the net.

Bencharki and Obama squandered a couple of chances later on to end the game empty handed. 

 The White Knights will face MC Alger on the 2nd of April before hosting Teungueth one week later.

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