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Egypt's league leaders Zamalek held by big spenders Pyramids FC in thriller
Published in Ahram Online on 24 - 01 - 2019

Zamalek hold off Pyramids FC 3-3 on Thursday to protect their three-point lead over their rivals, the new rising power in Egyptian football, halfway through the season.
Tunisia midfielder Ferjani Sassi produced a masterpiece scoring his first ever brace for the Whites on 8 and 65 minutes and setting up the league's top scorer Mahmoud Alaa for the third in the 42nd minute.
While Pyramids where rewarded for their spending this season as January signing Eric Traore scored his first goal for the team in the 15th minute, Syrian striker and the 2017 Asia player of the year Omar Kharbin scored on his debut in the 85th minute and Brazilian dazzling winger Keno was also on target in the 37th minute.
The Whites were without their regular keeper Mahmoud “Gennesh” Abdel-Rehim, who serves a one-match ban and finished the game with 10 men on the pitch as left-back Abdallah Gomaa was sent off in the 70th minute.
The result put an end to a 9-game winning streak but they are sitting comfortably at the top of the table with 42 points having played three games less than their rivals.
A four-goal show
The match got off to an explosive start as Abdallah El-Said could have opened the scoring as early as the first minute after being set up in the area by Kharbin but his poor effort went off the post.
Zamalek quickly got into their stride and Sassi converted their domination in the 7th minute with an amazing curling ball from the edge of the area into the top corner.
Pyramids FC delivered the perfect response to that early stunner with two straight goals.
Ragab Bakar slipped around two defenders and crossed to an unmarked Traore at the far post to level the score in the 15th minute.
In the 37th minute, Pyramids FC went ahead with a remarkable strike from Keno, who met El-Said's long ball on the volley and sent a powerful shot in off the post.
Zamalek were back on top again as Mahmoud “Kahraba” Abdel-Moneim and Omar El-Said came close from scoring but it was only for defender Alaa to score his 10th league goal after receiving Sassi's flick header inside the six yards.
A red card
Coming back after the break, both teams had a more cautious approach. Pyramids FC coach Hossam Hassan brought in full-back Omar Gaber instead of Ecuadorian striker Jhon Cifuente to bring some composure to his backline that was quiet exposed during the first half.
New Peruvian signing Cristian Benavente was introduced at the hour mark to make his debut in the Egyptian league replacing playmaker Mohamed “Afsha” Magdi.
However he couldn't turn his fortunes around as Zamalek remained on the front foot as Gomaa's shot was rejected by the bar, only for Sassi to score his team's third as he rose above the defenders to meet Kahraba's cross from the corner into the back of the net.
The turning point of the game came in the 70th minute when Gomaa received their marching orders on a second bookable foul. TV replay showed it was a harsh decision by Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi.
Pyramids FC attacked an masse and Syrian striker Kharbin slotted from close range after intercepting Keno's corner on the goal line with seven minutes to go.
They kept on pressing hard until the end but Zamalek defenders mounted a heroic performance to keep the draw until the final whistle.
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