Zamalek exit Confed Cup with heads held high after 3-0 win over Sahel

Omar Zaazou , Saturday 3 Oct 2015

Producing a gallant performance at Petrosport Stadium, Zamalek would've qualified for the Confederation Cup final had they scored one more goal

Mahmoud Kahraba
Mahmoud Kahraba (C) of Egypt's Zamalek celebrates after scoring a goal during their Confederation Cup semi-final soccer match against Tunisia's Etoile du Sahel at Petro Sport stadium in Cairo, Egypt, October 3, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)

A plucky Zamalek side were on the verge of a historic comeback after pulling off a 3-0 semi-final second-leg win over Tunisia's Etoile du Sahel at Petrosport Stadium, but bowed out of the competition with a 5-4 aggregate defeat.

Following a thumping 5-1 loss in Sousse a week ago, a 4-0 win would have been enough for Zamalek to march through but could only manage to hit three goals without reply in an exciting affair in Cairo.

Midfield wizard Mahmoud 'Kahraba' scored either side of the interval before Etoile defender Ghazi Abderrazak headed into his own net in the 69th minute to leave the hosts needing just a single goal to go through.

Apart from going into the game trailing by a four-goal margin, Zamalek had to see their mission become even tougher when defender Ali Gabr received his marching orders for an off-ball challenge after just five minutes.

The visitors also had substitute Marwan Tej sent off for a second bookable offense, but unlike their opponents, it was late in the game with just 15 minutes remaining.

Egyptian league and cup holders Zamalek waved goodbye to the Confederation Cup on their first participation. Etoile made it to the final and are to meet the winning team from Sunday's match between Ahly and Orlando Pirates.

Gabr silly red card

With merely five minutes into the game, defender Gabr was sent off after elbowing Baghdad Bounedjah in the chest. The referee did not hesitate to brandish the red card to dismiss the 28-year-old center-half with Bounedjah predending to be hit in the face.

The match then turned to a nervy affair, with both teams resorting to tough challenges and dangerous tackles, while the official did not seem ready to make things worse by sending off more players.

Technically, a tense Zamalek side struggled to work the ball forward, partly due to their numerical disadvantage as Etoile largely nullified them with their intense pressure in midfield.

And Kahraba's opener inside the opening 15 minutes did little to calm the tense atmosphere, after combining well with Ayman Hefni before striking from inside the area to revive Zamalek's comeback hopes.

Zamalek close to historic comeback

It didn't take Zamalek too long to score the second after the break, with the referee pointing to the spot after an Etoile defender handled the ball inside the area.

Kahraba made no mistake from the spot, even though his effort was weak and into the middle of goal as the keeper looked close to blocking the kick with his leg.

Ferreira then introduced striker Ahmed Hassan Mekki instead of Hefni, who seems to have fitness problems, as Zamalek played with two strikers and a single playmaker in Kahraba who moved to the right.

In an attempt to increase his firepower, Ferreira replaced full-back Mohamed Gomaa with skillful winger Mostafa Fathi, who handled the left flank on his own.

It wasn't long till the substitution paid off, when a free kick from the Zamalek hot prospect was deflected by defender Abderrazak into the latter's net, making Zamalek's qualification within grasp.

Zamalek were further helped by the dismissal of Tej, who bagged a brace in the first leg. But deeper into the second half, the Cairo giants ran out of gas and struggled to pile up pressure upfront.

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