Zamalek slump to a 2-1 defeat by El-Entag El-Harby in the Egyptian Premier League on Wednesday (Ahram)
Zamalek's Egyptian Premier League hopes were dealt a blow after they failed to take advantage of a slip-up by leaders Ahly to slump to a 2-1 defeat by El-Entag El-Harby in Cairo on Wednesday.
With Ahly playing out a 0-0 draw with Ismaily earlier in the day, Zamalek had a chance to narrow the gap to nine points with two matches in hand but they were instead undone by two first-half goals to suffer their second straight league loss.
They lost 2-0 to Ahly in December before a lengthy league break due to Egypt's participation in the African Nations Cup but avenged that defeat when they overcame the Red Devils 3-1 on penalties following a 0-0 draw to win the domestic Super Cup last week.
With midfield Tarek Hamed and central defender Ali Gabr rested following their Nations Cup exertions, Zamalek's defensive prowess was clearly affected as El-Entag went 2-0 up inside the first 35 minutes.
Oumid Oukri made the most of a dreadful blunder from defender Mahmoud Hamdi to open the scoring midway through the first half and Tarek Taha doubled their lead from a free kick to leave Zamalek with a mountain to climb.
Experienced striker Hossam Salama marked his debut with a goal on the stroke of halftime after arriving from Smouha in January but Zamalek failed to take their chances in the second half as El-Entag claimed a rare win.
The 2015 league winners are third in the table on 34 points, 12 behind defending champions Ahly who played two matches more.
Although Zamalek mounted early pressure, El-Entag made the most of Mahmoud Hamdi's mistake at the back to grab the lead after 22 minutes.
The in-form defender was robbed on the right hand side of the area, with Oukri finding the bottom corner from an acute angle.
Zamalek poured forward en masse but were stunned when El-Entag went 2-0 up 12 minutes later, Taha arrowing a free kick into the corner of the net after wrong-footing keeper Mahmoud Gennesh, who was the team's hero in last week's Super Cup triumph when he blocked two penalties in the shootout.
Salama, nicknamed Paolo, reduced the arrears one minute before the break when he headed home into an empty net after a volley from youngster Ahmed Fattouh struck the woodwork and fell into his path following a perfectly weighted pass from playmaker Mohamed Ibrahim.
Zamalek spurned several goal-scoring chances in a second half they dominated, with El-Entag sitting back to preserve their slender advantage.
Paolo's side effort following a cross was thwarted by the keeper and a header from defender Shawki El-Said narrowly missed the target as Zamalek lost for only the second time this season.
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