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Saturday, 19 June 2021

Bencharki scores last-gasp penalty as Zamalek snatch draw with Pyramids

While Pyramids utterly dominated the first half and looked to be cruising when veteran playmaker Abdallah El-Said put them ahead six minutes before the interval, Zamalek came on with all guns blazing in the second

Hatem Maher , Monday 3 May 2021
Achraf Bencharki
Bencharki converted a crucial penalty for Zamalek against Pyramids (Photo: Zamalek's official Facebook page)

A controversial penalty by Achraf Bencharki deep in stoppage time helped leaders Zamalek snatch a 1-1 draw with Pyramids FC in a pulsating see-saw Egyptian Premier League clash on Sunday.

While Pyramids utterly dominated the first half and looked to be cruising when veteran playmaker Abdallah El-Said put them ahead six minutes before the interval, Zamalek came on with all guns blazing in the second, laying siege to their opponents' goal.

The White Knights spurned a slew of goal-scoring chances, including a glaring one when winger Ahmed Zizo missed an open net, before they were awarded a debatable penalty three minutes into the injury time.

Defender Ahmed Mansour made a sliding tackle to clear a floated cross but the ball rebounded off the arm of his defensive partner Ahmed Sami, with referee Gehad Greisha pointing to the spot after checking a video replay.

The decision seemed somewhat harsh, given that Sami was in close proximity and barely had time to pull his hand away from the ball's direction.

To add to the drama, Bencharki sent keeper Sherif Ekramy the wrong way but Greisha ordered the penalty to be re-taken due to an encroachment of almost a dozen players.

The Moroccan winger, who took his tally to nine league goals to move joint top scorer of the competition, made no mistake on the second attempt with a powerful spot kick as Zamalek secured a share of spoils.

Pyramids, who also drew with Zamalek 1-1 in the reverse league fixture, will rue losing grip on the match in the second half as a win would have revived their hopes to challenge Zamalek and Ahly for the coveted title.

They remain third in the table with 31 points, six behind second-placed Ahly and 10 adrift of leaders Zamalek. Ahly have a chance to pull five points clear on top if they win their three matches in hand.

Lethargic Zamalek

Pyramids had the better of the first, pinning Zamalek in their own half for long spells and pressuring them high up the pitch.

Zamalek looked lethargic when they gained possession, failing to mount a single threat even though Pyramids deployed a high defensive line.

Pyramids created their first chance as early as the seventh minute, winger Ramadan Sobhi exchanging passes with Eric Traore in the area, only for Zamalek's central defender Mahmoud Alaa to deflect his shot over the bar with a sliding tackle.

They deservedly went ahead on 39 minutes when Zamalek's playmaker Youssef Ibrahim, who has come under fire recently for a number of below-par displays, gave away possession in his own midfield.

Pyramids pounced on Ibrahim's mistake to move the ball forward quickly. Sobhi released Traore on the right hand side of the pitch and the Burkinabe squared the ball to El-Said, who shook off two markers with a superb piece of individual skill and fired home from close range.

It was a totally different story in the second period as the introduction of fan favourite Mahmoud Shikabala gave Zamalek the spark they truly needed.

His neat touches and inviting passes made the difference as Zamalek bombarded Pyramids' goal.

Shikabala robbed Nabil Emad on the edge of the area and selflessly fed Zizo with the goal gaping. However, Emad redeemed himself to block Zizo's goal-bound shot, with the Zamalek winger clutching his head in despair.

Moroccan forward Hamid Ahadad was also thwarted by Ekramy from close range and Mahmoud Alaa headed against the bar from a pinpoint Shikabala corner.

Bencharki finally made Zamalek's dominance count at the death to salvage a valuable draw against a tough opponent.

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