Amr Zaki recalled glory days to score two brilliant goals, including a late one, as Zamalek defeated Haras El-Hodoud 2-1 on Saturday to reach the Egypt Cup final and continue their bid towards their first title since 2008.
The Egyptian international, who is enjoying a new lease of life under coach Hassan Shehata following a lengthy injury-plagued spell, opened the scoring as early as the third minute.
Hodoud leveled the score through a goal from striker Ahmed Mekki seven minutes past the hour mark but Zaki sent the home fans into raptures when he netted the decisive strike five minutes from time following a brilliant individual effort.
Zamalek set up a re-match of the 2008 final as they will face ENPPI after the latter beat Arab Contractors on penalty shootout earlier in the day.
Three years ago, a superb piece of skill from Zaki gave Zamalek the cup title at the expense of ENPPI. Often living in the shadows of illustrious city rivals Ahly, the Cairo giants have struggled since then.
Swift passing game
Zamalek looked lively in the early stages, with their swift passing game keeping El-Hodoud defenders on their toes.
They needed three minutes to go ahead when the unopposed Zaki unleashed a powerful shot with the outside of his right foot that went in at the top corner of the near post.
Zamalek continued to press forward after taking the lead, with midfielder Omar Gaber and striker Hussein Hamdy missing the target with two swerving shots from the edge of the area.
Mahmoud Abdel-Razek “Shikabala” mis-hit his shot with the goal gaping after rounding Hodoud keeper in the 27th minute.
Hodoud’s first real chance fell to Ahmed Eid in the 30th minute when a curling shot by the veteran forward was palmed by Zamalek goalkeeper Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed.
Zamalek eased off the break, giving Hodoud room to improve although the visitors still appeared toothless. The Alexandria-based club were boosted by the introduction of striker Ahmed Salama, who pumped life into a sluggish frontline.
A superb reflex save from El-Sayed denied a Salama header in the 66th minute but the in-form guardian was powerless to prevent El-Hodoud from equalizing one minute later.
A looping header from the unmarked Abdel-Rahman Farouk struck the bar and fell to Mekki, who side-footed the ball home into an empty net.
Zaki came to Zamalek’s rescue in the 85th minute to prove that he has not lost the goal-scoring prowess which saw him play a pivotal role in helping Egypt win two consecutive African Cup of Nations titles in 2006 and 2008.
He lived up to his nickname, The Bulldozer, to silence the small contingent of El-Hodoud fans, most clad in the red jersey of Ahly who were eliminated at the hands of ENPPI in the round of 16.
Zaki ran onto a threaded pass from veteran midfielder Ahmed Hassan, surged into the box and held off three defenders in the process as he made the post of his physical attributes.
He sent a left-foot low shot in the bottom corner past El-Hodoud’s hapless keeper to give Zamalek a much-needed win.