Cairo: Angolan striker Flavio notched twice on his birthday to lead title holders Ahli to a 2-1 victory over arch-rivals Zamalek in the Egyptian League on Saturday.
Ahli went to the lockers room with a two-goal lead through the in-form striker before substitute Osama Hassan pulled one back for Zamalek 11 minutes after the interval.
The win put the African champions in charge of the league table with 38 points, seven ahead of second-placed Ismaili while Zamalek lie third on 29 points.
The Cairo powerhouse stretched their unbeaten run in the league to 70 matches as their last defeat came against Zamalek in May 2004.
The injury of Ahli defender Wael Gomaa just before the kick-off forced coach Manuel Jose to field Ahmed Al-Sayed, who played his first competitive match since August after a long lay-off through injury.
The Red Devils dominated possession in the first ten minutes but Zamalek wasted a golden opportunity to grab an early lead.
Zamalek were awarded a penalty kick in the 12th minute after Ahli s right-back Ahmed Sedik obstructed Tarek Al-Sayed s attempt to pave his way in the box.
The team s top scorer Amr Zaki stepped-up but his shot was superbly blocked by Ahli goalkeeper Essam Al-Hadari.
Ahli responded one minute later when Flavio laid off the ball for Mohamed Abou-Treika, whose powerful shot was brilliantly tipped by Zamalek keeper Abdul-Wahed Al-Sayed.
Flavio opened the score line in the 31st minute after he rose above Ibrahim Saied to head Abou-Treika s inch-perfect cross from a free-kick into the back of the net.
Abou-Treika almost added the second three minutes later when he latched on to Flavio s pass and went face-to-face with Al-Sayed, who blocked the Egypt international s effort.
Ahli suffered a blow in the 35th minute when defensive midfielder Mohamed Shawki was injured and had to be replaced by Mohamed Sedik.
The unexpected substitution helped Zamalek dominate midfield and create several opportunities to level the score.
A first-timer by Gamal Hamza went just wide and Zaki s close-range shot missed the target.
Flavio doubled the lead three minutes before the break when he connected with Sedik s cross at the far post to head the ball home past Al-Sayed.
Zamalek began the second-half with a more attacking approach and had the upper hand but suffered at the back with some silly mistakes from the defenders.
Ahli were dangerous on the break but star playmaker Abou-Treika didn’t hit top form and wasted several chances to extend the lead.
Hassan, who was introduced instead of Mohamed Aboul-Ella, revived Zamalek s hopes in the 56th minute when he curled a superb free-kick into the bottom corner of the net.
Ahli had Al-Hadari to thank for maintaining their narrow lead as he brilliantly denied late efforts from Zaki and Hassan to secure the precious victory.