Stuttering Zamalek held to another Champions League draw

Hatem Maher , Saturday 19 Feb 2022

Stuttering Zamalek were held to another group-stage draw in the African Champions League, failing to convert a slew of goal-scoring chances in a 0-0 stalemate away to Angola's Sagrada Esperanca on Saturday.

Zamalek
Zamalek held to a scoreless draw in Angola (Photo: Zamalek s twitter account)

Zamalek had to come from two goals down to earn a 2-2 home draw against fellow Angolans Petro Atletico in their opening Group D game last week and they were once again guilty of wasting some easy chances against Esperanca.

Esperanca also had their fair share of opportunities, and Zamalek will be content to come away with a draw after keeper Mohamed Abou-Gabal pulled off some fine saves, including denying substitute Lionel Yombi in a one-on-one in the second half.

Zamalek extended their winless run to three matches in all competitions, having also slumped to a surprise 2-0 loss to Smouha in the Egyptian Premier League in midweek.

The Cairo giants lie third in their Champions League group with two points, one behind Morocco's Wydad and two adrift of leaders Petro Atletico.

The five-time African champions' task to avoid a group-stage elimination for the second successive season will not be easy as they next play Wydad in a crucial double-header, starting with an away game next Saturday.

Slow-tempo

There was nothing to separate both sides in a slow-tempo first half, which was littered with some poor passes in the final third.

The only highlight was a chance that fell to Zamalek's Tunisian striker Seifeddine Jaziri on the stroke of halftime as he saw his curling shot from inside the area cleared off the line by a defender.

The second half was more exciting, with Zamalek applying early pressure that could have resulted in an opener.

Esperanca keeper Leonardo Mutunda tipped over a powerful drive from Emam Ashour before throwing himself at the feet of Achraf Bencharki to block his far-post effort, with defender Mohamed Abdel-Ghani blasting the rebound high over.

At the other end, Bonginkosi Dlamini also wasted a good chance for the hosts when he got the better of Mahmoud El-Wensh down the right to cut inside unopposed, only to curl his effort wide.

The tit-for-tat continued as Abou-Gabal palmed away a couple of shots and Mutunda saved efforts from Mahmoud Shikabala and Ahmed Fattouh.

With the match drifting towards a goalless draw, both sides could have won at the death.

On 83 minutes, a slip by El-Wensh allowed Yombi to break clear, only for Abou-Gabal, one of the stars of Egypt's march to the African Nations Cup final early this month, to rescue Zamalek with a fine stop.

Zamalek were denied by the woodwork with virtually the last kick of the game when a pull-back from Moroccan winger Mohamed Ounajem found striker Omar El-Said, whose side-footed effort came back off the post.

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