Zamalek’s hopes of earning a semi-final berth at the African Champions League were dealt a huge blow after their defensive woes allowed Orlando Pirates to claim a 4-1 victory in South Africa on Saturday.
Goals from Lennox Bacela, Tlou Segolela, Sifiso Myeni and Daine Klate condemned Zamalek to an embarrassing defeat that leaves them with an uphill climb to avoid a likely exit from the group stage of Africa’s premier club competition.
Winger Mahmoud Abdel-Razek ‘Shikabka’ scored a consolation for the success-starved Cairo side, who had to do without striker Ahmed Gaafar and central defender Mahmoud Fathallah due to automatic suspension.
The defeat leaves them at the bottom of the group with a solitary point from three games, three behind arch-rivals Ahly and Congo’s AC Leopards and six adrift of leaders Orlando Pirates, who crushed Ahly 3-0 in Egypt in their previous game.
Zamalek’s cautious approach saw coach Helmi Toulan deploy a three-man midfield and two deep-lying forwards without an established striker but the strategy hardly paid off, with Orlando Pirates given too much space to operate around the penalty area.
The White Knights have been struggling to fill the gap left by the summer departure of defensive midfielder Ibrahim Salah and he was sorely missed on Saturday as his former teammates huffed and puffed to close down spaces in midfield.
Orlando went close with an early header and had several long-range shots blocked by Zamalek’s stand-in keeper Mahmoud Abdel-Rehim “Gennesh”, who deputized for skipper Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed.
Zamalek’s only real chance fell to midfielder Islam Awad, who let fly from distance but Orlando keeper superbly palmed his fierce drive.
The hosts deservedly opened the scoring in the 27th minute when Lennox Bacela held off Zamalek defender Salah Soliman, who was too slow to react, to race onto a deft pass from Daine Klate and rifle home into the roof of the net.
Their celebrations were short-lived, however, with Shikabala restoring parity two minutes later in style, neatly controlling an Ahmed Eid pass with a subtle touch in the area before beating the keeper at the near post with a precise low shot.
It was a one-way traffic in a second half dominated by Orlando, who exposed the huge defensive gaps to run riot and claim a comprehensive win.
Segolela restored their advantage in the 52nd minute in superb fashion. The prolific Bacela once again toyed with Soliman on the edge of the area before feeding Segolela with a fine threaded pass to fire home and angled first-timer with the outside of his right foot.
Myeni added the third in the 74th minute when he controlled a floated cross that eluded Zamalek’s left-back Mohamed Abdel-Shafy, who had a night to forget after committing numerous errors, to drill home with aplomb from the center of the area.
Klate completed the rout with eight minutes remaining with a simple tap-in as Orlando Pirates heaped more misery on Zamalek.
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