Shikabala celebrating with Tarek Hamed after scoring the winner against ENPPI (Photo: Zamalek's official website)
A sublime volley from Shikabala gave Zamalek a 1-0 win over a plucky ENPPI side in an Egyptian league match that was surrounded by a gloomy atmosphere due to the death of legend Hamada Emam just few hours before the game.
Shikabala, who came on as a second half substitute, netted the all-important goal 15 minutes from time in an evenly-balanced game with a few goal-scoring opportunities.
Zamalek, whose football director and club icon Hazem Emam was absent from the dugout due to the death of his father, played the match with black armbands as a minute of silence was observed right before the game.
The narrow win also marked Zamalek’s first victory over ENPPI in five years, with the petroleum side taking the upper hand on three occasions since 2010.
It is also Zamalek's second successive win under new coach Mido, who managed Shikabala at Ismaily in the first few games of the season before both moved back to their boyhood club.
Last season’s double champions have now moved top of the Egyptian league table with 24 points, but perennial rivals Ahly will leapfrog them if they beat Arab Contractors on Sunday.
Zamalek looked to rely upon their left flank during the first spells of the opening half, with Mahmoud Kahraba, Hamada Tolba and Ibrahim Abdel-Khalek combining on more than one occasion.
The Cairo side, however, failed to complete their passing moves the way they should have done, with Kahraba, and Ayman Hefni failing to deliver in the final third.
Zamalek seemed unable to bypass ENPPI’s high pressure and move the ball forward, as the hosts were the side to take the initiative in a dreary first half.
Shortly after seeing a low strike from outside the box denied by Egypt keeper Ahmed El-Shennawi, ENPPI forward Salah Ashour wasted the opportunity of the game when his header went inches wide on the half-hour mark.
The second half did not bring something different than the first, with Zamalek – who started with a 4-3-3- formation - looking a bit energized but the team’s midfield and attack disappointed.
ENPPI’s Mahmoud Kaoud blasted wide from inside the box in what seemed a dangerous chance and Ibrahim Yehia’s free kick missed the target in the 58th minute.
It was time to make changes, and Zamalek coach Mido introduced returnee Shikabala instead of right-back Ahmed Tawfik, as Omar Gaber moved to the flank in a 4-2-3-1 system.
And it was 20 minutes later when Zamalek's fan favourite Shikabala, who still lack match fitness, scored the winner in stunning fashion after hitting a volley from an impossible angle to surprise everyone with the ball rolling in the net.
Mido then introduced midfielder Maarouf Yusuf to maintain a grip of the midfield, as Zamalek endured a late ENPPI pressure to hold onto their slender lead and win the game.
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