In-form Cisse drives Egypt's Zamalek into final league phase

Ahmed Abd El Rasoul , Monday 13 May 2013

After vanquishing Arab Contractors 1-0 on Monday, Whites are now set to play in final mini-league alongside arch-foes Ahly

Zamalek's players (photo: Bassam Alzoghby)

Zamalek joined rivals Ahly in the Egyptian Premier League final phase after beating Arab Contractors 1-0 on Monday.

A second-half goal by in-form Burkinabe striker Abdoulaye Cisse allowed the White Knights to recover after last week's 2-1 defeat by Petrojet, which ended Zamalek's ten-match winning streak.

Zamalek extended their lead at the top of Group A of the league's new format, with 33 points from 11 games – nine clear of second-placed Ismaily. Arab Contractors, meanwhile, remain at seventh place with 12 points.

The Cairo giants, hoping to end a nine-year league drought, will play in the final mini-league alongside arch-rivals Ahly, who have already reached the final phase after defeating Haras El-Hodoud 2-1 on Sunday.

The Whites had a golden opportunity to take an early lead only one minute into the game after a header by Cisse failed to reach the net.

Zamalek players maintained their dominance for the game's first 15 minutes, but ultimately failed to produce a real threat.

Attacks by Zamalek striking duo Mohamed Ibrahim and Cisse continued throughout the first 30 minutes, but the two proved ineffective – especially in the absence of assists by wingers and midfielders.

Only three minutes before the break, midfielder Ahmed Hassan failed to score the opener, firing a 22-yard long ball only to strike the post of the hosts' net.

Better second half for Zamalek

In the 48th minute, Contractors keeper Mohamed Akabawy made a heroic save, denying a perfect free-kick by midfielder Nour El-Sayed.

In a bid to break through their rivals' defences, the Zamalek coach decided two minutes later to field prolific striker Ahmed Eid Abdel-Malek, who came in as a substitute for teammate Sabry Rahil.

In hopes of keeping the pressure on, winger Hazem Emam came in as a 65th-minute replacement for Omar Gaber to reinforce the Whites' attacking line.

In the 78th minute, Cisse rose above the defences to meet a corner kick from Abdel-Malek with a close-range header, bringing Zamalek into the lead.

The Arab Contractors coach reacted quickly, making two substitutions that posed an immediate threat to Zamalek's goal. Veteran keeper Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed, however, rose to the occasion to save his team.

Portuguese coach Jorvan Vieira's hopes of extending his team's lead did not stop, as he pushed Cameroonian midfielder Alexis Mondomo to replace midfielder Ahmed Hassan in the 84th minute.

At the very last minute, Zamalek saw one goal disallowed for offside when Cisse converted a through-pass by Abdel-Malek into the net.

Zamalek foes Ahly currently lie at the top of Group A with 30 points, seven clear of second placed ENNPI.

The top two in Groups A and B will qualify for the final round, where a mini-league with only home fixtures will be held to determine the champion.

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