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Zamalek fail to get over African disappointment after draw with Smouha

Hatem Maher , Thursday 27 Oct 2016
Zamalek v Smouha
File photo of an Egyptian Premier League game between Zamalek and Smouha (Ahram)

Zamalek failed to get over their loss in the African Champions League final after being kept at bay by Smouha in a 0-0 draw in their second Egyptian Premier League game on Thursday.

The White Knights struggled to break down a dogged defence for most of the game but were unlucky not to snatch a much-needed victory in the dying minutes when they spurned two golden chances.

Having missed out on the coveted Champions League trophy after they could only beat South Africa's Mamelodi Sundowns 1-0 in Alexandria last Sunday to lose 3-1 on aggregate, Zamalek were desperate for a morale-boosting win over an in-form Smouha side, who won four times and lost once in their opening five games before meeting the Cairo giants.

They had the lion's share of possession but Smouha proved a tough nut to crack in a cautious match.

Zamalek have four points from two matches, 12 behind leaders and title holders Ahly who played four games more. Smouha are second on 12 points.

Sweeping changes

Zamalek made sweeping changes to the side that lost to Sundowns following the injury of some key players, including midfielder Tarek Hamed and playmaker Ayman Hefni.

Their starting line-up included five summer recruits, the best of which was midfielder Mahmoud Abdel-Ati, nicknamed Dunga after the former Brazil midfielder, as he pulled the strings and sent some dangerous long balls upfield.

Both sides created one half-chance apiece in the early stages, with Zamalek goalkeeper Mahmoud Gennesh palming away a long-range shot and winger Mostafa Fathi sending a shot just wide from the edge of the area at the other end.

Smouha defended in numbers and Zamalek struggled to carve out openings in a cautious first half.

But one long pass from Abdel-Ati on 34 minutes released Fathi, who broke clear but his chip over the advancing keeper missed the target.

Smouha's tight defence also made life hard for Zamalek in the second half but the hosts went close in the 50th minute when another crossfield pass from Abdel-Ati found right-back Osama Ibrahim, whose cross somehow hit the thigh of lurking striker Bassem Morsi to go wide with the goal at his mercy.

Zamalek poured forward en masse towards the end, launching a wave after wave of attacks which saw Fathi send a tame low shot that was thwarted by the keeper when an overlapping teammate would have been better positioned to score.

Substitute Ahmed Refaat, who also joined in the summer, also had a close-range shot saved by the keeper as Smouha held firm to secure a share of spoils.

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