Egypt’s Zamalek downed by Masry in race for African spots

Cairo’s ailing giants Zamalek suffered their sixth defeat of the season after a 1-0 loss to Masry in the Egyptian Premier League in Alexandria on Wednesday, losing ground in the race to book a spot in one of the two main African competitions.

Playmaker Islam Eissa headed home the winner just past the hour mark as Masry, whose coach Hossam Hassan was absent due to a touchline ban imposed on him for making an obscene arm gesture in a previous match, avenged their 2-1 defeat by Zamalek in the reverse fixture in September.

Zamalek slumped to their second defeat in four matches under new coach Ehab Galal. They have won only once since the 50-year-old took over earlier this month.

The White Knights are fifth in the table with 32 points, five behind third-placed Masry who occupy an African Confederation Cup spot. Ismaily have 42 points in second place, which earns an African Champions League qualification.

Zamalek played with an unfamiliar three-man backline, with full-backs Ahmed Aboul-Fotouh and Youssef Ibrahim given attacking roles down the flank.

But Zamalek were sluggish upfront, failing to slice open Masry’s defence in a first-half with few goal-scoring opportunities.

Masry had the first chance after 13 minutes when Eissa raced clear but a one-handed save from keeper Ahmed El-Shennawi denied him. He tried to fire home on the rebound his effort went across the six-yard box.

Zamalek’s only opportunity came two minutes before the break when Aboul-Fotouh skipped past his challenger after a pull-back from Ghanaian striker Nana Poku, who made his debut following his January arrival, but his attempted cross was palmed away by the keeper.

The only highlight of a dour second half was in the 61st minute when the diminutive Eissa outjumped his marker to head home an inviting cross from the right, handing Masry a valuable win. Source: Ahram online