Egypt made it two wins out of two matches in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers after beating Ghana 2-0 in Alexandria on Sunday to go top of Group E.
A goal in each half from AS Roma talisman Mohamed Salah and Al Ahly playmaker Abdullah El Said gave the Pharaohs a vital victory that saw them lead the pack with six points, two more than second placed Uganda who defeated Congo 1-0 in Kampala 24 hours earlier. Ghana follows with a single point while Congo trails pointless.
After a slow start that saw the guests Ghana having the upper hand for most of the opening half, the first Egyptian chance fell to Salah who couldn’t beat Ghana goalkeeper Razak Brimah. The Black Stars looked more dangerous with Egypt’s veteran goalkeeper Essam El Hadary and his defenders denying the Ayew brothers, Jordan and Andre the opener.
Three minutes before the break, Belgium-based Mahmoud ‘Trezeguet’ Hassan was fouled inside the vital area by Harrison Afful, and Salah made no mistake from the resulting penalty to send the Pharaohs ahead into recess.
The second half was no different story, as the Black Stars threw all efforts in attack in search of the equalizer. But 43-year old legendary goalkeeper, El Hadary, live up to his “High Dam” moniker to prevent Christian Atsu from scoring at the hour mark.
Five minutes before full time, substitute Ramadan Sobhy led a counter attack before laying the ball to Salah, who found El Said inside the box, and the latter drove past Brimah to send the over 75,000 supporters inside the Borg El Arab Stadium into a euphoric mood.
The Pharaohs will enjoy the top spot for at least nine months before facing second placed Uganda in August 2017.
Hector Cuper (Head Coach, Egypt)
We haven’t qualified to the World Cup yet. There are still 4 games with 12 points at stake. I am a professional coach and know how to estimate these situations. Some people may not like our performance today, but in my opinion the players managed a priceless victory. Ghana is a good team and they caused us some trouble, but at the end of the day we are going home with the maximum points. We played with patience and balance and the players did what I asked them to do. Now we shift our attention to the Africa Cup of Nations, and come next August, we will be ready to resume the World Cup dream.
Avram Grant (Head Coach, Ghana)
I’m satisfied with my players’ performance despite losing the game. We still hold a chance, despite the fact that the fortunes are higher for Egypt and Uganda as it stands. We will fight till the last breath, and we can still do it. The huge attendance didn’t affect us through the game. We had the upper hand all through the 90 minutes and we have to keep going.
Source: Confederation of African Football.