Star in the making
Maqassa’s Hussein El-Shahat continued to dazzle, underlining his status as one of the most promising footballers in the Egyptian league this season.
The 25-year-old versatile midfielder, who last season played as a right-back but is now a playmaker, was on target and had a hand in another goal as Maqassa stunned Cairo giants Zamalek with a 3-1 win.
He intercepted a poor pass from Zamalek keeper Ahmed El-Shennawi after three minutes and shot goalwards, only for his effort to strike the shot-stopper and roll into the back of the net with the help of a touch from Ghanaian striker John Antwi.
El-Shahat made it 3-1 in stoppage time to kill off Zamalek’s equalizer hopes, finishing off a breakaway in style after rounding El-Shennawi and slotting into an empty net.
He took his tally to 8 goals in 10 league matches, moving on top of the scorers’ chart, one goal ahead of teammate Antwi and El-Entag El-Harby striker Omar El-Said.
On current form, it might not be long before Egypt coach Hector Cuper call up the energetic, up-and-coming midfielder.
Zamalek’s hopes of challenging perennial rivals Ahly for the coveted title are fading fast after they slumped to their second defeat in 10 matches, giving their bitter foes the chance to open up a 10-point lead over them should they win their rescheduled games.
They were outplayed in a 3-1 loss to Maqassa, with Montenegrin coach Nebojsa Jovovic struggling to tighten his porous defence that was caught on the break on many occasions in the same manner of their 3-0 defeat by Smouha last month.
They fell behind to an early goal from John Antwi but Syrian left-back Moayad Ajan brought them level with an exquisitely-taken free kick, only for Maqassa to punish their woeful defending with two more goals to claim all three points.
Zamalek’s bunch of new arrivals are still struggling to rise up to the occasion as they find it difficult to cope with the demands of playing for a team that is used to challenging for top honours.
Lack of experience in an expensively-assembled squad is making life difficult for Jovovic, who is testing the patience of outspoken chairman Mortada Mansour, who was elected the club’s chief for a second consecutive term last week.
Mixed feelings over Ahly’s Azaro
Moroccan striker Walid Azaro is having a love-hate relationship with Ahly’s fans.
Originally ridiculed by some for his wastefulness, Azaro is now drawing other admirers after netting his fourth league goal in seven matches as Ahly continued their steady climb up the table with a comfortable 2-0 win over foes Masry in Alexandria.
His display typified his complicated relationship with the Red Devils’ faithful, having scored with a header moments after a glaring miss when he miscued a close-range shot with the goal at his mercy.
He squandered another goal-scoring chance early in the second half when he was denied by the keeper in a one-on-one situation.
His pace is certainly an assist to Ahly’s frontline and is cited by many pundits as one of the main reasons the team had been creating so many chances lately.
But the question remains: Will that be enough for Ahly’s demanding supporters? Only time will tell.
First win for Ragaa
Struggling at the bottom of the table, Ragaa finally secured their first win on the 11th attempt, claiming a surprise 1-0 victory over eighth-placed Petrojet.
Ahmed Hambozo netted what proved to be the winner seven minutes after the break when he sneaked ahead of his marker to slot home with aplomb following a low cross.
Although they still remain at the bottom, Ragaa’s first win gives them some hope that they are capable of fighting for safety, with only four points separating them from 15th-placed Ittihad although the latter have a game in hand.
Ragaa drew two and lost eight of their first 11 matches in the top flight this season.
Coach Mido under pressure
Former Egypt striker Mido, who had a long spell in European football playing for the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Ajax Asmterdam, remains under pressure after Wadi Degla extended their winless run to nine matches following a 2-1 defeat by Ismaily, who went four points clear of Masry on top.
Reports suggest the rookie coach could be soon axed, with Degla languishing second from bottom on eight points from 11 games, having only won once.
In-form Colombian striker Diego Calderon fired Ismaily in front after seven minutes when his wicked, bouncing shot from 40 metres squirmed under experienced keeper Mohamed Abdel-Monsef.
Playmaker Ibrahim Hassan made it 2-0 with a clinical finish four minutes past the hour mark before Osama El-Azab converted a late penalty to net a consolation for Degla.
Degla are two points from safety while Ismaily are keeping up pressure on Ahly.