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Rare but well done
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 29 - 05 - 2008

Zamalek won something at last, hence Sunday's unusual scenes of fan joy. Nashwa Abdel-Tawab writes on the end of a title drought
After a four-season title drought, Zamalek defeated the petroleum club Enppi 2-1 on Sunday to clinch the 77th Egypt Cup. For Zamalek, who finished third in this season's Premier League, the cup was their first piece of football silverware since the 2003-2004 season and first cup since 2001. It was Zamalek's 21st cup win in their history.
Zamalek ended the first half 1-0 thanks to a controversial penalty by Osama Hassan. Enppi keeper Amer Amer allegedly brought down Gamal Hamza, who aimed to get on the end of Zaki's through pass. Hassan stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way as Zamalek grabbed the lead against the run of play.
Skipper Mohamed Younis drew Enppi level two minutes past the hour mark but Amr Zaki gave Zamalek a priceless win 10 minutes from time after a superb individual effort.
Enppi were by far the better side in the early stages and were unlucky not to score on several occasions. Enppi's complete domination over midfield helped them launch several raids on Zamalek's goalkeeper Mohamed Abdel-Monsef.
Enppi pushed forward in the first half in search of the opener, but their approach left huge gaps at the back. Abdel-Monsef launched a huge ball upfield and the unmarked Shikabala raced onto it and went clear on goal. His low shot went past Amer but was denied by the post.
But Zamalek took the lead after Hamza was seemingly brought down by Amer, although in replays it appeared Hamza was partly simulating.
Younis deservedly claimed the equaliser for Enppi in the 62nd minute. Ivorian striker Vincent Die Foneye towered above Mahmoud Fathallah to head goalwards but his effort struck the woodwork. Younis was the quickest to react as he nodded in from close range to draw Enppi level.
Abdel-Monsef superbly blocked a fierce shot from Eissa in the 68th minute.
Shikabala wasted a clear-cut opportunity to restore Zamalek's lead 11 minutes before the final whistle. He controlled Hamza's pass inside the area but his shot from a tight angle was palmed away by Amer.
Zaki proved the difference when he netted Zamalek's winner in superb fashion. He picked up a pass on the edge of the area and brilliantly back-heeled the ball into his path to trick two challengers before hitting a low shot into the bottom corner.
The combative striker may have played his last match for Zamalek as Premiership side Wigan Athletic are interested in signing him in the close season. Wigan manager Steve Bruce was in Cairo two weeks ago to see Zaki play up close. A Wigan representative arrived in Cairo to engage in formal talks with Zamalek. Although it initially appeared Zamalek would accept Wigan's bid, Zamalek chairman Mamdouh Abbas has now affirmed that Zaki's departure is far from confirmed unless they find his replacement.
"To lose someone like Zaki is not easy. We need to find his replacement before letting him leave," he told the TV show Modern Sport. "We have to sign a new striker before June 21st. Otherwise, it will be difficult for Zamalek to allow him depart. "All people saw what he did today, he was the one who brought to us the cup title," he added.
Zamalek's 21st Cup triumph put an end to a dry spell for the whites, who last tasted glory in 2004 when they won the Egyptian League title.
The end of the game also meant the end of several Zamalek careers. Just a few minutes before kick-off, Zamalek fans pleaded with skipper Hazem Emam not to retire at the end of the season. During the warm-up, all Zamalek players wore Emam's number 14 jersey as a sign of appreciation for the 33-year-old's efforts throughout his distinguished career. The former Udinese playmaker burst into tears after hearing the fans' chants.
Emam previously said he would retire from professional football following the Egyptian Cup. He hoped to end his career on a high note by helping the team end their title drought.
After the game, Zamalek assistant coach Mohamed Helmi announced he, too, was leaving. "I preferred to resign after being subjected to fierce criticism during the past period," Helmi said after the match. "I was criticised by people in the club, something which I did not appreciate."
Nevertheless, Abbas insisted Helmi would carry on with the Cairo giants. "Helmi's decision came in the heat of the moment. I'm sure he will continue with us," he said. Zamalek head coach, Dutchman Ruud Krol is also set to leave for family reasons. A coaching staff overhaul is expected.
"Zamalek board member Mohamed Abou-Allam is negotiating with two coaches as the club seek a replacement for Krol," Abbas added.
French manager Henri Michel, who departed Zamalek in August 2007, is one of the favourites to take over at the club for another stint.
Striker Abdel-Halim Ali also announced that he is set to quit Zamalek after winning the cup. "It's over now. I will leave the club to give a chance to new faces," Ali said after the game. However the 34-year old striker confirmed he won't retire and that he will be seeking a new challenge elsewhere. The veteran forward, who underachieved this season, was booed by the fans during the last few games. Ali scored only five league goals this year.
Enppi had enough motive to lift the Egyptian Cup. Anwar Salama's side hoped to repeat their feat of 2005 when they beat Ittihad in the final. They had the best second-half season in the league, notching up nine wins, including a 3-0 defeat of league champions Ahli.


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