Al Ahly were held to a 0-0 draw by Pharco FC, their second successive goalless game, to fall further behind in the Egyptian Premier League race on Wednesday as arch-rivals Zamalek moved close to retaining their Egyptian League crown.
The Red Devils were poor in a first-half in which Pharco were better, with the minnows threatening once and creating some half-chances.
Ahly were reinvigorated following the second-half introduction of South African forward Percy Tau, who returned from a six-week injury layoff, as they pushed forward in search of a vital winner.
They thought they had achieved their target when Tau rifled into the roof of the net after Mozambican winger Luis Miquissone slipped a pass into his path in the 71st minute.
Tau’s wild celebration was muted when the referee disallowed the goal following a VAR review. The decision was highly controversial, with television replays showing the former Brighton man in an onside position.
Pharco played the last few minutes with ten men after substitute Mahmoud Emad received a straight red card in the 87th minute for a reckless high-foot challenge on Ahly midfielder Mohamed Mahmoud.
However, they held on after defending stoutly in the dying minutes, dealing a fresh blow to Ahly’s hopes of wrestling the title back from Zamalek.
Ahly lie third in the table with 56 points, three behind second-placed Pyramids FC and 10 adrift of Zamalek, who both played a game more. With only six rounds remaining, Zamalek are unlikely to surrender top spot.
Pharco, who boast the league’s best defensive record with only 18 goals conceded, are eighth on 36 points.