Degla's French midfielder Florent Malouda (Photo: Ahram)
An out-of-sorts Zamalek failed to narrow the gap with leaders Ahly after being held to a 1-1 Egyptian Premier League draw by Wadi Degla to extend their winless run to four games.
Defender Mahmoud Alaa put Degla in front in the 12th minute before Egypt striker Bassem Morsi restored parity midway through the second half to spare Zamalek an embarrassing third straight defeat and score his first goal in five months.
Zamalek were held to a draw with Smouha before slumping to two defeats by Ismaily and bitter rivals Ahly prior to their game against Degla.
Coach Mido was fired following the Cairo derby loss to Ahly and Mohamed Salah took over on an interim basis.
The match saw two players make their debut for each team: ex-Chelsea forward Florent Malouda with Degla and full-back Ramzi Khaled, who joined from Alexandria's Ittihad in January, with Zamalek.
Malouda, UEFA Champions League winners with Chelsea in 2012, set up the first-half opener for Degla and wasted a penalty which would have put his side 2-0 up early in the second period.
After leaders Ahly were held to a goalless draw by Talae El-Geish a day earlier, Zamalek had the chance to close on their arch-rivals who remain seven points clear at the top of the table.
Zamalek lie second on 32 points, just one ahead of third-placed Maqassa, while Degla are 11th on 22.
Below-par Zamalek go one goal down
The match initially seemed an easy contest for the Egyptian league holders, with Wadi Degla leaving acres of space behind their defence and in their midfield.
But the hosts were the first to signal threat on goal, with Karim Mamdouh hitting the side-netting after capitalizing on the gaps left behind left-back Hamada Tolba as early as the fifth minute.
Zamalek, however, failed to make the most of all the spaces afforded to them, with on-loan Basel forward Ahmed Hamoudi in poor form and Shikabala unable to pull the strings on the opposite flank.
Similar spaces started to appear between the Zamalek lines as the match wore on, with the Cairo giants looking completely disorganized under the management of caretaker coach Salah.
And it was just 12 minutes into the game when Degla took the lead, with defender Mahmoud Alaa rising unmarked inside the area to head Malouda's corner into the far corner.
Despite being one goal down, Zamalek failed to demonstrate the intent needed to bring the score level, and it was Degla who could have doubled their lead if it wasn't for keeper Ahmed El-Shennawi who came out of goal to deny Mamdouh two minutes from half time.
Malouda miss penalty
It was just two minutes into the second half when Degla where awarded a penalty after defender Gabr had blatantly shoved forward Stanley Ohawuchi inside the box.
Malouda then stepped up to take the spot kick, but was unfortunate to see his penalty hit the crossbar as Zamalek avoided conceding a second goal.
Zamalek manager Salah then reacted to make changes, introducing Mostafa Fathi at the expense of the below-par Hamoudi and Ayman Hefni instead of debutant right-back Khaled.
The Whites improved after the changes, even though Fathi looked much livelier after being switched to the right having been initially introduced on the left side.
And it was the 63rd minute when Morsi drew Zamalek level after a Shikabla cross was initially shot by Fathi before being deflected off a defender as the Zamalek striker pounced to send a diving header into the back of the net from close range.
Morsi, whose last goal for Zamalek came in the 2-0 win over Ahly in the Egypt Cup final, then wasted the chance to give his side the lead after breaking clear before seeing his strike denied by ex-Egypt keeper Essam El-Hadari.
But the miss of the game came two minutes from time, when Morsi, again, failed to find the net from point-blank range as El-Hadari gathered the ball.
Degla, however, could have punished Zamalek for their squandered opportunities when substitute Junior Mapuku saw his effort from inside the box denied by the woodwork as the game ended in a 1-1 draw.
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