Zamalek playmaker Ayman Hefni attempting to overcome the challenge of two Maqassa opponents (Photo: Ahram)
Zamalek league title hopes have been severely dented following a 1-0 defeat at Maqassa in a match that was marred with refereeing controversy at Suez’s Army Stadium on Friday.
In a rescheduled match from the fifth week, Zamalek were hoping of a win in their bid to keep the gap with leaders Ahly to just six points, but a Hussein El-Shahat strike in the first half meant the Cairo giants have moved further away in the title race.
The game had seen referee Gehad Gerisha deny Zamalek a legitimate second-half penalty when Maqassa’s Ahmed Sami blatantly extended his arm inside the area to keep the ball away, with the visitors fuming at the official’s decision.
In an apparent attempt to withdraw from the match in stoppage time, almost all Zamalek players walked out of the pitch, only to backtrack and resume play after the game had been halted for a few minutes.
Egypt Cup holders Zamalek, who also have another rescheduled game against Talae El-Geish, are third with forty points, five adrift of second-placed Maqassa. Ahly are top of the table with 52 points.
El-Shahat puts Maqassa ahead
Zamalek looked energetic in the opening stages, pressing high up the pitch to win the ball early and it was eight minutes into the first half when an unmarked Maarouf Yusuf hit the side-netting from inside the area following a free-kick.
Maqassa then replied three minutes later through Ahmed El-Sheikh, on loan from Ahly, who forced a full-stretch save from reserve keeper Mahmoud Gennesh with a strike from outside the area.
Zamalek striker Bassem Morsi was then guilty of missing a header from inside the area after a pin-point cross from in-form right-back Osama Ibrahim in the 15th minute.
But it was Maqassa who took the lead through El-Shahat few minutes later, when he struck on the rebound after Zamalek keeper Gennesh kept away El-Sheikh’s cross from the left, only for the ball to fall into the full-back’s path.
Zamalek winger Mostafa Fathi was then guilty of missing a one-on-one chance after evading a couple of challengers as Maqassa keeper Ahmed Massoud did well to thwart him three minutes past the hour mark.
Maqassa opted to sit back after the break in an attempt to protect their slender lead, with Zamalek largely struggling to pose threat on goal.
But the highlight of the half was the blatant handball from Sami inside the area as referee Gerisha – who officiated the 2017 Cup of Nations opening game in Gabon - waved away Zamalek’s penalty appeal.
With Zamalek seemingly out of concentration following the incident, Maqassa could have doubled their advantage through Hesham Mohamed whose strike from inside the box missed the target in the 65th minute.
Zamalek substitute Hossam Salama saw a header from inside the area gathered by keeper Massoud following a cross from another sub in Ahmed Refaat as the Whites desperately searched for an equalizer.
And shortly after the fourth official had announced a six-minute stoppage-time, Zamalek players suddenly headed towards the dugout in what seemed an apparent attempt to withdraw from the game.
They eventually resumed play after the game had been halted for four minutes, as Maqassa eventually came out 1-0 winners to move within seven points of leaders Ahly.
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)