Achraf Bencharki shone with a goal and assist as Zamalek bounced back from two successive draws to beat Smouha 2-1 at home and maintain their four-point advantage on top of the Egyptian Premier League on Thursday.
The Moroccan forward's powerful header in the first half was quickly cancelled out by Smouha's on-loan winger Mostafa Fathi, who refused to celebrate after netting against his parent club.
However, key defensive midfielder Tarek Hamed scored a rare goal three minutes before the break to settle an end-to-end affair in Zamalek's favour as they were given a boost before facing rivals and nearest challengers Ahly in the Cairo derby on Monday.
Bencharki continued to steal the show with an all-round display to take his tally to 10 league goals and move joint top in the league's scoring chart.
Zamalek, who were held to draws by Arab Contractors and Pyramids FC in their previous two games, are on top of the table on 42 points, four clear of Ahly, who still have two games in hand.
Smouha, who tasted their second defeat of the season, dropped to seventh with 29 points.
The visitors had a penalty claim waved away by the referee following a VAR review early on before Ahmed Abdel-Kader missed a sitter, turning Zamalek's central defender Mahmoud Alaa inside out before shooting across the face of the goal.
Bencharki then gave Zamalek the lead after 17 minutes, sending a powerful glancing header home following an inviting cross from veteran playmaker Mahmoud Shikabala, who was given the nod ahead of the off-form Youssef Ibrahim.
Fathi brought Smouha level two minutes later with a superb first-time shot from the edge of the area after a lay-off from a teammate, with his effort beating Zamalek keeper Mohamed Awad at his near post.
Shikabala almost restored Zamalek's advantage with a curling shot that narrowly missed the target but Smouha remained dangerous on the break, going close on 36 minutes when Ugandan striker Derrick Nsibambi was found unmarked by a square pass from the lively Fathi, only to send a tame shot into the hands of Awad.
Hamed gave Zamalek a halftime lead when he struck his first goal of the season on 42 minutes, his shot nestling into the near corner past motionless keeper El-Hani Soliman after a layoff from the impressive Bencharki.
Both sides looked tired in a less entertaining second half, which still yielded some goal-scoring opportunities at both ends.
Zamalek keeper Awad kept out two shots from Abdelkabir El Ouadi and Ahmed Abdel-Kader and substitute Marwan Hamdi was guilty of a glaring miss at the other end with nine minutes remaining.
After a quick counter attack, Youssef Ibrahim, who replaced Shikabala in the second half, broke clear and unselfishly fed striker Hamdi, who missed an open net with a poor effort at the far post.
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