x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Zaki shines among all City's stars

The Egyptian striker makes the right impact to become the matchwinner for Wigan.

Amr Zaki is given a piggy-back by teammate Emile Heskey after scoring Wigan's second goal against Man City.
Amr Zaki is given a piggy-back by teammate Emile Heskey after scoring Wigan's second goal against Man City.

While Mark Hughes was frustrated and furious at the way his Manchester City were beaten at Wigan, criticising foreign players for their diving antics, there is one overseas footballer who has made the right impact. A debatable penalty decided Sunday's breathless encounter, but the man who scored it was not guilty and gave the City boss a flashback to his own playing days.

Known as the "Bulldozer", Amr Zaki was the all-action hero who battered the City defence into submission. There are not many who can rattle Richard Dunne the way he did. Zaki has been compared to Alan Shearer, while there's a touch of Les Ferdinand about him too, but Hughes himself may be closer to the mark, according to Steve Bruce, Zaki's manager and a former United captain. In his days leading the line at Manchester United, Barcelona and Chelsea, Hughes held up the ball superbly, had an explosive shot and a great touch which belied that of a big man. Zaki has those attributes in abundance.

"He has the same physique as Mark Hughes, he's that sort of type and he is a massive fans' favourite here already," said Bruce, who was the only one prepared to take a gamble with a one-year loan deal for the Egyptian striker when he was touted around Premier League teams. "Zaki played with enormous appetite, he is as strong as a bull, and Dunne and [Micah] Richards know they have been in a game."

Bruce has the first option to sign Zaki permanently from Zamalek when his loan ends, but if he carries on like this, the price and other interest may well be a lot higher by that time. Zaki's penalty, making him the league's top scorer with six goals, proved the winner. It was also the second contentious decision at the weekend that has left referees in the spotlight once again and the demand for the use of video technology even greater, following Rob Styles' blunder to give Cristiano Ronaldo a spot-kick at Old Trafford on Saturday, for which he later apologised.

These mistakes affect results, titles and ultimately jobs. That is what left Hughes most irate rather than his side's inability to match Wigan's fight or use their pace and skill more sensibly to prise open a determined backline. "Referees have days when they don't perform as well as they should and that's true for players, managers, coaches and alike so we understand that," he moaned. "But all we ask is that they get big decisions right. I think it [diving] is part and parcel of the game and the foreign players are a bit more adept at it than the British-based players. I didn't used to fall down quite as easy as that."

City don't have time to wallow over this second straight defeat. With Omonia Nicosia, in the Uefa Cup, and Liverpool next up at Eastlands, and expectations high after the Abu Dhabi United Group's takeover, Hughes has to make sure his side do not falter and ruin a season of promise.
akhan@thenational.ae