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Boost for Under-fire McLeish as Zamaleck qualify

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AFP-

Former English Premier League manager Alex McLeish eased the pressure on him by taking Zamalek of Egypt into the CAF Champions League group stage on Tuesday.

The Cairo club snatched a late equaliser to draw 1-1 at Mouloudia Bejaia of Algeria in a last 16 second leg and advanced 3-1 on aggregate.

Faouzi Yaya rifled a free-kick past substitute goalkeeper Mahmoud Abdel Rehim on 57 minutes to halve the deficit Bejaia faced after the first leg in Cairo.

But first leg scorer Ahmed Hamoudi levelled two minutes from time in Algeria by racing on to a defence-splitting pass and deceiving goalkeeper Chamseddine Rahmani.

The match was one of three second legs staged on Tuesday — the first official midweek matches in the 52-year-old premier African Football Confederation (CAF) club competition.

Pressure from national associations wanting more weekends for domestic fixtures triggered the change with three group matchdays also scheduled for midweek.

Scot McLeish, who managed Birmingham City and Aston Villa in the Premier League, has come under public and media fire over poor domestic results since his February appointment.

A couple of league losses and a draw have left title-holders Zamalek 11 points behind fierce rivals Al Ahly with 11 rounds left in one of the most competitive African national championships.

But club chairman Mortada Mansour says McLeish will not become the fourth coaching casualty this season after Portuguese Jesualdo Ferreira, Brazilian Marcos Paqueta and Egyptian ‘Mido’.

“Alex will remain coach of Zamalek until his contract expirers at the end of the season and then we will assess his performance,” Mansour told reporters.

Qualifying for the eight-club group stage of the Champions League boosts the survival prospects of McLeish with Zamalek seeking to win the competition for a sixth time.

Substitute Maybin Mwaba scored nine minutes from time to give Zesco United of Zambia an unimpressive 2-1 home win over Stade Malien of Mali in Copperbelt city Ndola.

But the hosts could be excused some woeful finishing as they all but sealed overall success by winning 3-1 in Bamako two weekends ago.

Stade were even poorer for much of the match and showed an appetite to try and save the tie only after equalising on 56 minutes through an unstoppable Moussa Coulibaly volley.

Kenyan Jesse Were put Zesco ahead after five minutes and could have scored a hat-trick before his second-half substitution.

Twice champions Entente Setif of Algeria squeezed through on away goals after being held 0-0 at home by Al Merrikh of Sudan. The first leg ended in a 2-2 draw.

 

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