Atlético’s short visit to Cairo ended in triumph, with the Rojiblancos running out 4-1 winners in the Egyptian capital this evening.
50,000 fans filled the Cairo International Stadium to celebrate SC Zamalek’s 100 year anniversary, but were unable to see their team take anything from a game in which they were mostly second best.
Gregorio Manzano named a team that included the controversial José Antonio Reyes, who lined up in a versatile attack with Pizzi and Salvio. Youngster Jorge Pulido was handed a start, and Sergio Asenjo also made a welcome appearance.
Atlético set the tone during the opening exchanges, and took the lead 10 minutes in through a neat Eduardo Salvio finish. The 21 year-old made a clever run to the front post before turning Pizzi’s cross into the top corner.
Just minutes later it was two, with Pizzi again the architect for Salvio. The Portuguese winger pounced on Asenjo’s clearance before crossing for the Argentine to tap home for a second time.
The away side were finding their way through the Egyptian defence with somewhat ease. Reyes came close to adding a third goal but failed to convert from point blank range.
However, midway through the first half Zamalek were given a route back into the game when Shikabla was tripped by Pulido. Contact looked to be minimal, but the referee pointed to the spot.
Mido took responsibility, and squeezed the ball into the bottom right corner past Asenjo.
Atlético nearly restored their lead soon after, but Sayed saved from Pizzi. The Braga loanee skipped past two defenders, but was thwarted well by the Egyptian ‘keeper.
Before half-time, Zamalek had two great chances to equalise, but were wasteful and unlucky in equal measure.
Firstly, Shikabla inexplicably stabbed the ball wide of an open goal after rounding Asenjo. Minutes later, his teammate did find the net but was flagged for offside.
Manzano made three changes during the break, introducing Diego, Adrián and Domínguez for Tiago, Filipe and the particularly impressive Pizzi. Youngster Javi Manquillo was also given a 20 minute run out later on.
Seven minutes into the second half, Diegofinally extend Atleti’s lead with a sublime free-kick.
After being hauled down 25 yards from goal, the Brazilian stepped up and curled the ball into the bottom corner, despite the fans best attempts at distracting him with a laser.
Once again the Egyptians responded, but were denied by the linesman for the second time when Salah slotted past substitute Joel.
They continued to threaten with a fantastic long range effort, but the red and whites made sure of the win in the 75th minute.
Again it was Diego on target, finishing off a swift counter attacking move. Salvio had a great chance to complete his hat-trick during the build-up, but saw a chipped effort rebound off the crossbar.
Atlético managed to see the game out with no problems, and twice came close to adding a fifth through Adrián.
It may have only been a friendly, but the win could prove to be a welcome confidence boost for Manzano’s men. Club directors will also be hoping the result gains a few new followers for the Madrid team.
The Spanish capital now awaits for Atleti, who will continue to prepare for next Sunday’s vital clash with Levante. Striker Radamel Falcao will join them on Saturday, with a worrying hamstring injury forcing him to return early from international duty.
Line-up: Asenjo (“60 Joel); Juanfran (“65 Manquillo), Miranda, Pulido, Filipe (“46 Domínguez); Assunção, Gabi, Tiago (“46 Diego); Reyes, Salvio, Pizzi (“46 Adrián).
Goals: 0-1 Salvio (“10); 0-2 Salvio (“14); 1-2 Mido (p.k.)(“25); 1-3 Diego (“52); 1-4 Diego (“75)