Under-pressure Zamalek seek to restore lead at the top

Hatem Maher, Wednesday 25 May 2011

Zamalek face a tough test against Maqassa on Thursday as they seek to restore a six-point lead at the top of the league

Zamalek

Ahly’s convincing 3-0 victory over Haras El-Hodoud put leaders Zamalek under pressure ahead of their tough meeting with Maqassa in the Egyptian Premier League on Thursday.

Title holders Ahly moved joint top after making the most of their numerical advantage to crush 10-man El-Hodoud and keep pace with the success-starved Zamalek, who have not won Egypt’s premier domestic competition since 2004.

Only goal difference separates Zamalek from second-placed Ahly, who revived their title hopes following the arrival of Portuguese coach Manuel Jose, having faltered under his predecessor, Hossam El-Badry.

Zamalek needed a late free-kick from wizard Mahmoud Abdel-Razek ‘Shikabala’ to claim a thrilling 3-2 victory over Arab Contractors last week, a result that exposed their defensive fragility but highlighted their efficiency upfront following the return from injury of burly striker Amr Zaki.

Zaki’s new role as a deep-lying forward notably benefited the White Knights against Contractors, with his energetic moves and neat passes creating plenty of goal-scoring chances for his teammates.

His strike partner, Ahmed Gaafar, astonishingly blasted his shot high over the bar with the goal gaping when Zaki picked him out with a pinpoint cross in what could be the miss of the season.

“I was not lucky against Contractors but I’m confident that I will score against Maqassa,” the towering frontman, who hardly repaid the faith of coach Hossam Hassan, said on Zamalek’s official website.

“I want to make up for that miss and live up to the expectations of the fans.”

Promoted Maqassa are enjoying a fine run of form under the guidance of ex-Zamalek assistant coach Tarek Yehia as they lie seventh in the 16-team table with 31 points.

Yehia reacted furiously to rumors suggesting he could manipulate the match to favor his former club, who are desperate to clinch the league title to celebrate their centenary year in the best possible way.

“I’m very sad with such accusations. I’m a professional coach who respects himself and respects his job,” Yehia, who played as a left-back for Zamalek in the 1980s, said in a television interview.

“I exert the same efforts in every match. I have to repay the trust of the club’s board of directors.”

Zamalek goalkeeper Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed is likely to retain his regular place between the sticks after shrugging off a minor knee injury he sustained against Contractors.

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