Zamalek players celebrate winning the Egyptian Cup (Reuters)
Zamalek fended off a spirited Smouha side, who played with ten men for more than 50 minutes, to salvage an otherwise poor season with an Egypt Cup triumph following a 5-4 shootout win after a 1-1 draw on Tuesday.
Smouha grabbed an early opener through Hossam Hassan and looked close to causing an upset but Zamalek's Congolese forward Kabongo Kasongo headed home with four minutes remaining to spark wild celebrations in the stands of Alexandria's Borg El-Arab Stadium, forcing an extra time.
Zamalek had a numerical advantage from the 69th minute after Smouha's goal-scorer Hassan was dismissed after incurring a second booking for dissent but the Alexandria-based club put on a brave fight and held their opponents at bay in extra time.
However, Zamalek prevailed in the penalty shootout, with a skewed effort from Smouha's Abdallah Bakri separating both sides.
Zamalek avoided ending the season empty-handed after finishing a disappointing fourth in the Egyptian Premier League before exiting the African Confederation Cup at the first hurdle following a shootout loss to Ethiopia's Wolaitta Dicha.
Their fifth Egypt Cup triumph in the last six years and their 26th overall qualifies them for the Confederation Cup, Africa's secondary club competition. It's also the first title for new coach Khaled Galal, under whom Zamalek made a significant improvement following a season to forget.
The build-up to the match was preceded by incessant Smouha protests over the Egyptian Football Association's refusal to assign a foreign referee for the match. Tensions boiled on a number of occasions in the game, especially when Hassan was sent off for remonstrating with referee Mohamed Farouk.
Zamalek were taken by surprise after five minutes when Smouha scored a surprising opener, making the most of a blunder from central defender Mahmoud Alaa.
Smouha winger Hamdi Zaki robbed Alaa on the left hand side of the area, slipping the ball into the unmarked Hassan to slide and bury the ball into the bottom corner.
Zamalek poured forward after falling behind but Smouha held firm. The White Knights struggled to unlock a watertight defence but had a golden chance to equalise on 14 minutes.
Lively right-back Hamdi Nagguez picked out the unmarked Mahmoud Abdel-Aziz with an inviting cross but the central midfielder's downward header forced a superb save from Smouha keeper El-Mahdi Soliman.
Smouha could have doubled their lead on the break on the half-hour mark when two forwards were only challenged by one defender. However, Nasser Maher's attempt to square the ball for his unmarked teammate was foiled by a timely interception from keeper Mahmoud Gennesh.
Zamalek had the better possession in the second half but Smouha comfortably dealt with their tame efforts, sitting back to soak up pressure.
However, with the clock ticking, the otherwise wasteful Kasongo rose above his marker to send a glancing header home following a trademark teasing cross from the impressive Nagguez, who is set to play with Tunisia at the World Cup.
Both sides had chances to kill off the game in extra time but Zamalek eventually had the upper hand in the shootout, converting all their five kicks after Bakri fired high over in Smouha's first shot.
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