Zamalek celebrate their opening goal against Ittihad (Photo: the club's official Facebook page)
Two second-half goals from Ibrahim Salah and Bassem Morsi gave Zamalek an easy 2-0 victory over Ittihad on Saturday to keep up pressure on perennial rivals Ahly, who face a tough Egyptian Premier League game against Masry.
Zamalek produced a labored display in the first half but were much livelier in the second, with defensive midfielder Ibrahim Salah heading home from a corner before Morsi, who is still struggling to recapture his top form, converted a penalty to ensure a second straight win for the White Knights.
Ittihad had to play with ten men for more than 20 minutes after Mohamed Atwa was dismissed for conceding the penalty, having received a second yellow card.
Zamalek kept a clean sheet for the fourth consecutive game, thanks in particular to some outstanding displays from newly-arrived defender Mahmoud Hamdi, who is likely to be called up for Egypt's African Cup of Nations campaign next month.
Zamalek moved fourth in the table with 28 points from 12 games, 11 behind leaders and title holders Ahly who played 15.
Ahly face a tough clash against high-flying Masry on Sunday. Should they drop more points following their 0-0 draw with Enppi in their previous match, the Red Devils will give a chance to Zamalek to pull level on top if the latter win their rescheduled matches.
The tempo was fast in the first half, with Ittihad looking better than Zamalek with some pacy breakaways that almost resulted in a surprising opener on two occasions.
Ahmed El-Alfi broke clear after a deft through pass on the quarter hour mark but blasted his effort high over while ex-Zamalek striker Khaled Qamar was guilty of another miss when his back-heel flick from close range was thwarted by keeper Ahmed El-Shennawi on 28 minutes.
Zamalek once again struggled to carve out any opportunities, with the three-pronged attack barely fed by three defensive-minded midfielders.
They had a goal disallowed shortly before the break when winger Mahmoud Shikabala floated a free-kick that went straight into the back of the net. The referee adjudged Mahmoud Hamdi to have fouled Ittihad keeper El-Hani Soliman.
Zamalek came out with all guns blazing in a second half they totally dominated, opening the scoring on 50 minutes when Salah met a trademark inswinging corner from Shikabala with a firm header past Soliman.
The introduction of skilful playmaker Ayman Hefni, who is the subject of interest from Saudi club Ettifaq, helped Zamalek maintain a tight grip on the game, with the 30-year-old toying with Ittihad defenders.
One his bursts into the penalty area resulted in a 68th-minute penalty which Morsi converted after sending Soliman the wrong way.
Zamalek wasted several more chances in the latter stages as Ittihad gave up, keeping up pressure on Ahly.
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