File photo: Zamalek forward Achraf Bencharki in action against MC Alger during their 0-0 draw in Cairo (Photo: Ahram)
Zamalek recorded their first ever win in Algeria after beating MC Alger 2-0 in their penultimate group-stage game on Saturday to keep alive their hopes of making it to the last eight of the African Champions League.
Two first-half goals from forward Youssef Ibrahim and veteran winger Mahmoud Shikabala gave a clinical Zamalek side a precious victory that kept them in the hunt for Group D's second quarter-final ticket.
The display was reminiscent of how Zamalek used to fare under Patrice Carteron in his previous spell -- closing down spaces at the back and hitting their opponents on the break.
Now that the Frenchman has returned to the club he left at a critical stage of last season, Zamalek are showing familiar signs of defensive solidity and counter-attacking efficiency.
They are third in their group with five points, three behind MC Alger and five adrift of already-qualified Esperance.
Zamalek's only hope to go through lies in beating Senegal's Teungueth at home in their final game and hope Esperance defeat MC Alger. In this case, the White Knights will advance virtue of their better head-to-head record over MC Alger.
Zamalek needed six minutes to go ahead against MC Alger after a fine three-man move.
Tunisian midfielder Ferjani Sassi fed Achraf Bencharki with a threaded pass in the left hand side of the area and the Moroccan pulled the ball back to the unmarked Ibrahim, who found the top corner with a curling effort.
MC Alger had some half chances but Zamalek's defence stood firm before Shikabala made it 2-0 following a fine individual effort in the 33rd minute.
Collecting a pass from Sassi on the right, he cut inside a couple of challengers and beat the keeper at his near post with a snap low shot.
Zamalek were content to sit back in the second half and protect their advantage, with MC Alger creating little danger.
But the hosts still spurned a golden chance to narrow the gap when a rare defensive mistake allowed Abdenour Belkheir to break clear on the hour mark, only to narrowly miss the target with a sliding shot after defender Mahmoud Alaa closed him down.
Zamalek could have added to their tally on at least a couple of occasions late in the game as they exploited gaps in MC Alger's backline.
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