Zamalek defender Mahmoud Alaa scored twice against Tanta (Ahram)
Zamalek avoided another lapse under their caretaker manager and moved four points clear of Pyramids FC in the race to finish second after a double from Mahmoud Alaa gave them a 3-1 victory over bottom side Tanta in the Egyptian Premier League on Tuesday.
The central defender will steal headlines after wasting a penalty just before halftime before making amends after the break, heading powerfully from a corner and then converting another spot-kick in a game marked by several VAR interventions.
Mahmoud Masoud gave Tanta a lifeline with an 89th-minute goal but it was too little, too late as Zamalek wrapped up the win in stoppage time when substitute Emam Ashour pounced on a quickly-taken free kick to fire home, leaving opposing defenders bemused.
Zamalek looked rudderless in their previous match following the surprise departure of French boss Patrice Carteron, slumping to a shock 1-0 loss to Aswan that allowed Pyramids to close to within one point of them in a tight race for the last African Champions League qualifying spot.
But the White Knights atoned for the defeat with a victory over Tanta, although they looked rusty in a poor first half against their modest opponents.
Zamalek, who are led by former left-back Tarek Yehia on an interim basis, are second with 55 points but Pyramids can close the gap to one point again if they beat Ismaily on Thursday.
Tanta look doomed to relegation as they lie at the bottom with 18 points, 10 adrift of safety with five matches remaining.
Zamalek mainly relied on some hopeful shots from distance after struggling to unlock Tanta's defence in the first half, even though their opponents were not that cagey at the back.
Tanta keeper Mohamed Ashraf palmed away two efforts from Ahmed Zizo and Eslam Gaber before diving the right way to block Alaa's spot-kick on the stroke of halftime following a handball.
But Alaa made up for the miss with a powerful header from a Zizo corner to break the deadlock two minutes after restart before leaving the keeper rooted to the spot with another penalty on 72 minutes.
Despite Zamalek's comfortable lead, Tanta looked capable of staging a comeback when Masoud stooped to head home a corner one minute from time.
Zamalek then wasted several clear-cut chances but Ashour settled their nerves when he finished off a quickly-taken free kick by influential Moroccan forward Achraf Bencharki, who made his return from injury.
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)