Clinical Zamalek secure rare Egyptian league win over wasteful Ahly

Hatem Maher , Saturday 22 Aug 2020

Ahly v Zamalek
Zamalek's Ahmed Sayed celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates (Reuters)

Clinical Zamalek made the most of some devastating counter attacks to punish a wasteful Ahly side, handing them their first defeat of the season with a 3-1 victory in the Egyptian Premier League on Saturday.

In-form Moroccan winger Achraf Bencharki once again stole the show, orchestrating Zamalek's moves, creating an early goal and contributing to a stoppage-time third, which ended the match as a contest as the White Knights grabbed a morale-boosting Cairo derby win over the runaway leaders.

Zamalek took a 13th-minute lead after surviving some early Ahly pressure, with winger Ahmed Zizo firing into an empty net after brilliant individual work from Bencharki on the left.

Ahly's central defender Yasser Ibrahim, at fault for Zamalek's opener after letting Bencharki skip past him, made up for the mishap to bring the Red Devils level two minutes past the hour mark, finding the net following a goal-mouth scramble.

However, he was again overpowered as striker Mostafa Mohamed restored Zamalek's advantage in superb fashion, chesting a cross from Hazem Emam despite being closely marked by Ibrahim, swiveling and hitting an unstoppable volley into the bottom corner.  

Just as Ahly appeared close to leveling the score again after mounting a late onslaught, youngster Osama Faisal, who came on as a substitute in the final stages, slotted home into an empty net three minutes into the additional time to round off another breakaway and wrap up the win.

Although second-placed Zamalek only managed to close the gap on leaders Ahly to 14 points, they will still be content to record a rare league victory over their perennial rivals, only their third in the last 15 years in the domestic competition.

Strategy altered 

Ahly coach Rene Weiler altered his usual strategy, playing with an unfamiliar 4-3-3 formation that lacked established wingers, with the absence of the likes of Ramadan Sobhi, whose loan deal ended, and the suspended Mahmoud Kahraba leaving the team struggling to use the full width of the pitch.

They still had the better of the early exchanges and were unlucky not to go ahead on two occasions, with towering Senegalese striker Aliou Badji, who got the nod ahead of the off-form Marwan Mohsen, coming very close.

He outjumped his markers twice, first heading against the post from a left-wing cross before sending another powerful header that Zamalek keeper Mohamed Abou-Gabal did well to tip over the bar.

But Zamalek proved adept at their trademark counter-attacking game under canny French boss Patrice Carteron, opening the scoring against the run of play after 13 minutes.

Deep-lying forward Youssef Ibrahim, back from injury, released Bencharki on the left with a deft through ball and the Moroccan tricked his way past Yasser Ibrahim and crossed low for Zizo to fire into the roof of an empty net at the far post.

Ahly's possession afterwards was futile, with Zamalek sitting comfortably at the back to soak up pressure.

But Ahly came with all guns blazing in the second half, having reverted to their normal formation following the introduction of veteran winger Walid Soliman and Angolan Geraldo.

They had a penalty claim waved away by Croatian referee Ivan Bebek after a VAR review and were astonished to see Zamalek defender Mahmoud Hamdi make a last-ditch interception to prevent a certain goal after a low cross evaded Abou-Gabal.

But they were rewarded for their relentless efforts when Ibrahim drew them level on 62 minutes. His header from a corner was parried by Abou-Gabal into his path and he smartly dragged the ball back and chipped it over a crowd of defenders and the keeper into the net from close range.

Ahly were still punished for leaving huge gaps at the back, with Mostafa drawing cheers from the dugout with his sublime goal and Faisal ensuring the win with a simple tap-in following a move started by Bencharki and finished by a shrewd pass from fellow Moroccan Mohamed Ounajem to the young striker.

Zamalek finished with ten men after experienced left-back Mohamed Abdel-Shafi sustained what looked a serious arm injury, having made four substitutions in a maximum of three slots. 

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