Zamalek winger Ahmed Refaat battling for the ball with an FUS opponent (Photo: Ahram)
Zamalek were frustrated to a 2-2 draw by Morocco’s FUS Rabat in their opening Arab Championship Group B opener at the Alexandria Stadium on Sunday.
Going into the game looking to put in a convincing performance following their dismal 2-0 defeat to league champions Ahly last week, Zamalek fell down to an eighth minute goal from FUS winger Lamina Diakite.
The Cairo giants had to wait till the final two minutes of the first half to level the scoring through striker Bassem Morsi from the spot, before skipper Shikabala hit a stunning goal five minute after the hour mark.
With Zamalek manager Augusto Inacio looking to shut down the game in an attempt to preserve his slender lead and come up with all three points, Diakite came back with justone minute left to salvage a vital point for his side.
The other group game had seen Saudi Arabia’s Nasr draw 1-1 with Lebanon side Al-Ahed earlier in the day, with Zamalek facing the latter on Wednesday.
The winners of each of the three groups will advance to the semis along with the best second-placed side.
Zamalek frustrated in the dying minutes
Zamalek started the game strongly, showing good glimpses of possession as they pushed forward early on, with wingers Ahmed Refaat and Shikabala particularly dangerous.
Against the run of play, however, the Moroccans took the lead following a defensive blunder from center-back Mohamed Magdi, which eventually allowed an unmarked Diakite to strike past keeper Ahmed El-Shennawi from inside the area.
With Inacio’s men expected to chase the game now, they looked completely sluggish, with a late penalty awarded after the ball had been handled by a Moroccan defender offering them a timely chance to get back into the game.
And striker Morsi made no mistake from 12 yards to restore parity, as both sides went 1-1 into the dressing rooms.
The Whites did not look particularly better in the second half, with the forced substitution of winger Ahmed Refaat and the introduction of midfielder Ibrahim Abdel-Kahleq to play on the wing in the 15th minute barely helping the Cairo side.
Things, however, changed after the introduction of speedy winger Hazem Emam, who assisted Shikabala for his stunning goal in the 65th minute.
A counter-attack ended up with Emam crossing the ball for Shikabala, who ghosted behind a FUS defender at the far post as he took a touch to the ball before unleashing a powerful strike that hit the bar before going into the net.
With Zamalek now retreating into their own half to close down spaces, the Cairo side’s dreadful mistakes at the back came to haunt them again, with an unmarked Diakite again pouncing on a loose ball inside the area before beating keeper El-Shennawi.
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