Ferjani Sassi (R) scored Zamalek's equaliser against Ahly (Ahram)
Ferjani Sassi, a fan favourite who is likely to leave Zamalek at the end of the season, rescued the team from another Cairo derby defeat as his superb late curler earned them a 1-1 draw with Ahly in a top-of-the-table Egyptian Premier League clash on Monday.
Substitute Salah Mohsen atoned for missing a sitter earlier by firing Ahly in front on 73 minutes after some sloppy Zamalek defending allowed him to break clear from almost the halfway line.
Zamalek looked destined for another derby defeat following last month's 2-1 loss as they ran short of ideas despite dominating the early stages of the second half.
However, a moment of brilliance from Tunisian international midfielder Sassi with ten minutes remaining helped Zamalek share honours with their perennial rivals.
After a fine team move, a clever dummy from winger Ahmed Zizo allowed a pass from substitute Hazem Emam to roll into the path of Sassi, whose angled, first-timer from the edge of the area nestled into the far bottom corner past motionless keeper Mohamed El-Shennawi.
Sassi is expected to depart at the end of the season as his contract expires. Zamalek have reportedly failed to meet the 29-year-old's financial demands to prolong his stay.
Zamalek, who are chasing their first league crown since 2015, remain on top of the table with 45 points, four ahead of defending champions Ahly, who can pull clear if they win their two games in hand.
The first half was evenly-balanced, with both sides adopting similar high-pressing strategies while remaining vigilant at the back.
After Ahly had a couple of half-chances early on, Zamalek created the game's first goal-scoring opportunity after 21 minutes when veteran schemer Mahmoud Shikabala attempted a repeat of his recent stunning goals in the derby.
He cut inside a couple of challengers from the left and, instead of sending a trademark curling shot into the far top corner, tried a low shot that El-Shennawi did well to parry.
Achraf Bencharki was on hand but his weak follow-up effort drew another save from the towering El-Shennawi.
Ahly responded with a clear-cut chance of their own on 33 minutes when lone striker Mohamed Sherif got the better of Mahmoud El-Wensh on the right and pulled the ball back to the unmarked Hussein El-Shahat, whose low right-foot shot fizzed just wide of the post.
Zamalek looked livelier in the early stages of the second half but failed to make their dominance count, with Ahly then stepping up a gear to gain control.
Mohsen could have scored with his first kick after coming on but blasted his shot over the crossbar with the goal at his mercy after Zamalek defender Mahmoud Hamdi lost possession in the area.
But he made amends in style when a long ball from Amr El-Sulaya caught Zamalek's advancing defenders napping as he raced clear, rounded keeper Mohamed Awad and slotted into an empty net.
Sassi had the last word, however, as Zamalek secured a share of spoils.
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