An off-colour Zamalek side could only play out a 1-1 stalemate with Talae El-Gaish in the Egyptian Premier League on Thursday.
Zamalek, who emphatically cruised to the Champions League's last-eight with a comprehensive 5-0 aggregate win over Nkana Red Devils this week, failed to replicate their stunning continental form against Gaish, who went ahead after just 13 minutes through midfielder Hassan Youssef.
Mauritanian forward Dominique da Silva pulled level eight minutes later as the Whites failed to pose a real threat on goal throughout the game.
The draw stretched Zamalek's winless streak in the league to four matches, having lost and drawn twice in their last three outings prior to the disappointing draw.
The result, however, saw the unconvincing Cairo giants improve their poor position in Group B, climbing up two spots to sit at sixth place on 16 points, two off the relegation zone, even though they have two games in hand.
Zamalek, who need to secure a top-two finish to qualify for the playoffs, have six matches remaining. Manager Ahmed Hossam 'Mido' – who watched the game from the stands as he is serving a two-match ban – needs to address his side's drawbacks to remain in contention for a title that has been evading them since 2004.
Dull affair, two goals
A dreary first half saw Zamalek pour forward in search of an early opener, but it was Gaish who took the lead through Youssef, who stunned his boyhood club with a low free kick that beat veteran goalie Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed.
Zamalek defender Mahmoud Fathallah could have well equalised five minutes later but had to see his close-range header blocked by keeper Mohamed Bassam.
Bassam, however, could do nothing on Zamalek's second attempt on goal – a point-blank range header from Dominique da Silva, who was deployed as a left winger in Mido's 4-2-3-1 formation, to beat the keeper following a pin-point cross from Hazem Emam.
Zamalek clearly suffered from the absence of regular fullback Mohamed Abdel-Shafy, a key man on the left flank, due to automatic suspension, as natural centre-back Yasser Ibrahim barely delivered the goods after being shifted to deputise for the Egyptian international.
Another insipid second half
Likewise, the second half was also a dull affair, even though Emam and Omar Gaber formed a good combination down the right but rarely found enough presence inside Gaish's box to render their crosses effective.
Near the end of the game, Moemen Zakareya – who played as a central attacking midfielder – had two free kicks thwarted by the keeper, blocking Zamalek's only two chances of the half.
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