Stuttering Zamalek held to another draw to slip to fifth in Egyptian league

Al Ahram

Zamalek's stuttering start to the Egyptian Premier League continued after they were held to a 1-1 draw away to Tanta, who equalized with a controversial penalty in an incident-packed game on Friday. Tanta wasted a first-half penalty awarded for an apparent foul committed by Zamalek's Syrian full-back Moayad Ajan, although television replays showed there was a minimal contact between the Syrian full-back and Tanta's Mohamed Gaber.

Zamalek's keeper Ahmed El-Shennawi saved the resulting penalty and the visitors then squandered several goal-scoring chances until debutant Salah Ashour ended Tanta's resistance with a 64th-minute volley. However, Tanta were given another dubious penalty nine minutes later when Hammada El-Ghannam went down under the slightest of challenges from right-back Ahmed Tawfik.

Striker Gaber dispatched the spot-kick and Zamalek's late efforts to score a precious winner were in vain, with Tanta squandering a golden chance to snatch a stunning win in stoppage time. Zamalek's angry players harangued the referee following the final whistle, with the club then announcing it would withdraw from the league competition unless the Egyptian Football Association's board members stepped down.

The stalemate, Zamalek's third draw in five matches, saw them slip to fifth in the table with nine points, four behind leaders Masry. Tanta are ninth on six points.

Wasted chances

Zamalek striker Bassem Morsi, who fell out with Egypt coach Bassem Morsi last year but recently said he was eager to return to the team's fold following their qualification for the World Cup, looked determined to open his account this season but was guilty of wasting three clear-cut chances in the first half. He sent a free header high over early on and had another header on 32 minutes denied by the bar.

He was also sent clean on goal three minutes before the break following a through pass from deep-lying forward Salah Ashour, a summer arrival who made his first appearance, but his poorly-hit effort struck the legs of the Tanta keeper. The woodwork also came to Tanta's rescue late in the first half when defender Mahmoud Alaa's low shot following a goal-mouth scramble hit the post.

For all Zamalek's dominance, they could have fallen behind midway through the first half when Tanta were awarded a penalty after Mohamed Gaber fell following the slightest of contacts with Moayad Ajan. However, goalkeeper Ahmed El-Shennawi dived the right way to save Mohamed Asaad's spot-kick. Zamalek broke the deadlock in the 64th minute when winger Abdallah Gomaa skipped past his challenger and rushed to the byline before pulling the ball back to Ashour, who neatly flicked it before firing a volley into the corner of the net.

But Gaber restored parity in the 72nd minute when he shot his penalty straight down the middle, with El-Shennawi diving to his right. Zamalek pressed forward in the dying stages but they were almost caught out in stoppage time when El-Shennawi produced a superb reflex save to thwart Gaber in a one-on-one situation.