File photo of Ahly striker Emad Meteb (Photo: Ahram)
Emad Meteb scored a hat-trick, wasted a penalty and prevented his own side from scoring with an accidental goal-line clearance as holders Ahly recovered from a woeful start to their Egyptian Premier League campaign with an exciting 4-2 win over Damanhour on Saturday.
The forgotten striker, who was been hampered by niggling injuries during the past year, made his first start of the season after Ahly's main striker Amr Gamal picked up a serious knee injury in the 0-0 draw with top-flight debutants Assiouti Sport that will rule him out of action for at least six months.
Meteb, who was given a suspended three-month jail sentence last week for getting into an argument with a police officer in April, produced a vintage performance despite looking overweight to help Ahly claim their second victory in five league matches as they chase a ninth consecutive title after embarking on a rebuilding process under Spanish coach Juan Garrido.
They went ahead twice through goals from Meteb and Mohamed Rezk either side of the interval but their lead was cancelled out by Damanhour's Hamdi Fathi and Ivorian striker Abou Kone.
However, the 31-year-old Meteb netted home with aplomb seven minutes from time and made the game safe in stoppage time after scoring Ahly's fourth goal as the Red Devils moved to the 11th spot in the table with eight points, six behind leaders Haras El-Hodoud who played two games more.
Promoted Damanhor remain third from bottom with three points from seven matches.
Damanhour, surprisingly, had the better of the early exchanges and wasted a couple of half chances as Ahly had the first sight of goal after 25 minutes when a tame acrobatic effort by Meteb was easily collected by the keeper.
Ahly gradually improved as the match wore on, with energetic midfielder Mahmoud Hassan, better known as Trezeguet, wreaking havoc upfront with his marauding runs.
One his darting forays resulted in the opening goal in the 31st minute when he skipped past his challenger down the right and sent a superb diagonal cross to the far post, where Meteb popped up to volley home.
Fathi brought Damanhour level when he towered above two defenders to head home a corner but Ahly had a golden opportunity to restore their advantage on the stroke of halftime when full-back Bassem Ali was tripped in the area.
Meteb's weak spot-kick was blocked by the keeper and he failed to make the most of a rebound after the ball fell into his path.
Burkinabe winger Moussa Yedan was unlucky to see his angled drive strike the post shortly after but Meteb accidently acted as a Damanhour guardian when he inadvertently blocked the follow-up on the goal-line, having been in an offside position.
Ahly's pressure paid dividends five minutes before the break in superb fashion, with Rezk blasting an unstoppable shot into the far corner from inside the area after receiving a pull-back from Bassem Ali with a first-timer.
The vulnerability of Ahly's defensive duo Saad Samir and Mohamed Naguib as well as disappointing left-back Sabri Rahil cost them though when the unmarked Kone dived at the far post to head a pinpoint cross past the keeper to make it 2-2 in the 58th minute.
Garrido threw caution to the wind by introducing attacking midfielders Mohamed Farouk and Karim Bambo as Ahly mounted an onslaught which paid off on 83 minutes when Meteb found the bottom corner of the net with low shot after being fed by the impressive Trezeguet.
His simple far-post finish from a Karim Bambo cross just before the final whistle made sure Ahly had bagged all three points.
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