Zamalek got back to the pitch on style, after failing to grace the pitch in the Cairo derby against Al Ahly last Monday, coming from a goal down the beat Esperance de Tunis 3-1, a side they humiliated with same score line in the CAF Super Cup weeks ago.
Esperance came into the game with a ‘sweet revenge’ mentality against the Egyptians in the first leg clashof the Champions League quarter-finals in Cairo International Stadium.
But the encounter turned sorer for Esperance despite taking the lead through Raouf Benguit before they game reaches the 30th minute hour.
Inside the first 6 minute, Hamdou Elhouni could have put Esperance ahead after Zamalek misplaced a pass in their own half. However, Elhouni’s curler from outside the box went wide to maintain the tie goalless inside the first 25 minutes.
On the 20th minute, Ilyes Chetti made way for Khalil Chemmam after Chetti pulled early minute injury. In fact,the 4-1-4-1 system seems to be working perfectly for Esperance making it difficult for Zamalek to break through.
And that had immediate impact on the game, when a swift combination from Ibrahim Ouattara, Hamdou Elhouni and Raouf Benguit saw Esperance took the lead on the 27th minute.
Ouattara started it all, passed the ball to Elhouni outside the box before the latter played to the path of Benguit, the Algerian nicely placed it bottom right corner of the net.
Zamalek responded quickly, grabbing the equalizer from open-play. Mohamed Ounajem sent in a tremendous shot from a long range to make the game 1-1 on 31st minute.
Six minutes after, the home side nearly leapfrogged Esperance when Mohamed Alaa got the better of Esperance defense in air before the defender’s header sided with the cross-bar to end the first half in a 1-1 draw.
Zamalek started off the second half quick well, but Esperance threatened first when Khalil Chemmam dispossessed Zamalek attack on the left flank, moved forward a little bit before the defender shot at goal for Zamalek goalkeeper Abou-Gabal saved to corner.
Zamalek began to keep the ball to themselves well, with some nice movements around the Esperance box but the away side wouldn’t fall so cheaply for those plays.
On 66th minute, Ouattara nearly restored Esperance lead when the forward was played on from the right edge by Elhouni but Mohammed Hamdi interfered with his right root for corner kick.
Ashraf Bencharki, the scorer of Zamalek’s second goal today and that of the Super Cup put Zamalek ahead on the 72nd minute, finishing off from a tight angle inside the six yard box.
Esperance players rushed referee Radwan Zayed from Morocco, protesting for an offside in angry manner, following Bencharki’s goal, but the referee sent off Mohamed Ali Ben Romdhane on 83rd minute for misconduct.
Eight minutes later, Zamalek introduced veteran Shikabala on who nearly scored from outside the box, but his curler from the right edge missed the posts by inches.
Zamalek put the game beyond Esperance after long period the Egyptians had been the better side, searching for their third goal in attempt to make the second leg a little bit easier.
Mohammed Alaa converted a stoppage time penalty (90+4), Alaa stepped forward to send Ben Cherifia the wrong way for Zamalek’s third goal.
Zamalek stand high chance of qualifying to the Semi-finals of the CAF Champions League after today’s 3-1 victory over their Tunisian opponents. But they would have to complete the hurdle a week later when they travel to Tunisia for the quarter-final second leg.