CAIRO: Zamalek gave beleaguered coach Henri Michel some respite by claiming a hard-fought 3-2 victory over a brave Military Production side in the Egyptian Premier League on Saturday.
An own goal from Ayman Al-Muhammadi gifted Zamalek an early lead before further strikes from Sherif Ashraf and Ghanaian midfielder Ibrahim Ayew left the hosts with a mountain to climb.
Production pulled one back 15 minutes before the break, thanks to a goal from former Zamalek midfielder Mohamed Aboul-Ella.
The league newcomers were unlucky not to score in the second half after carving out plenty of clear-cut chances. They couldn t break the resistance of goalkeeper Abdul-Wahed Al-Sayed until stoppage time when Mohamed Zaki scored from close range.
Zamalek snapped a three-match winless streak to ease the pressure on Frenchman Michel, who would have probably lost his job if the Cairo giants failed to win.
The White Knights, who won the last of their 11 league titles in 2004, moved into fifth spot in the table with 11 points, six behind leaders and arch-rivals Ahly who have a game in hand.
Production s second successive defeat leaves them in the eighth spot on nine points.
Zamalek raced into a two-goal lead within the first 15 minutes, with lively winger Hazem Emam, who played in an advanced position in the team s new 4-4-2 formation, causing havoc down the right flank.
Production keeper Mostafa Kamal misjudged an Emam free-kick to allow central midfielder Hani Saied to head goalwards after two minutes. Al-Muhammadi tried to clear the ball but could only hit it into his own net.
The unmarked Ashraf, who played instead of the suspended Amr Zaki to partner Mido upfront, doubled the lead on 14 minutes when he controlled another Emam cross in the area and struck a left-foot shot that beat Kamal at the near post.
Production midfielder Hazem Fathi was unlucky not to the narrow the gap on 23 minutes when the bar denied his superb diving header.
Zamalek once again exposed the hosts poor backline to add the third and kill off Production s hopes of staging a comeback.
Ayew raced onto a neat Mido flick to break clear of defense and slot home with aplomb for his first goal since joining in the close season.
Zamalek, seemingly believing they had put the result beyond doubt, eased off to allow Production to lay siege to the area and create numerous goalscoring opportunities.
They deservedly found the net after some slack marking from Zamalek central defender Ahmed Magdi helped Aboul-Ella convert a headed pass from close range on 30 minutes.
Magdi and his partner Amr Al-Safti committed some dreadful mistakes to leave huge gaps at the back but Al-Sayed came to their rescue on many occasions in the second half.
Al-Sayed, who regained his place between the sticks after Mohamed Abdul-Monsef gifted Gouna a goal in last Tuesday s 1-1 draw, produced a scintillating display to thwart countless efforts from Production.
He was finally beaten deep into stoppage time after Zaki, who was unmarked, connected with a low cross from the right to fire home from six yards out but Zamalek held onto their slender lead to emerge winners.