Saturday Nov 14, 2020. 22:59
Egypt have picked up a first win in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers after defeating Togo 1-0 at the Cairo International Stadium on Saturday.
The result – which was secured in the absence of star player Mohamed Salah (who tested positive for Covid-19 in the build-up) – sees the Pharaohs joins Comoros on five points at the top of Group G, with Kenya in third on three points and the Sparrow Hawks at the foot of the standings on one point.
Egypt dominated from early on, but initially lacked the pace and precision needed to break down Togo’s defence.
The Pharaohs’ finally clicked into gear midway through the first half when Ahmed Zizo picked out Mostafa Mohamed with a fine cross and the striker saw his header rebound off the crossbar.
Zizo was again influential a few minutes later in teeing Mohamed Elneny up to shoot wide from the edge of the area, while Togo’s first proper attacking foray ended with Gilles Sunu sending an effort off target on 26 minutes.
The Sparrow Hawks came into the game more and more as the half progressed, but they didn’t really trouble Egypt goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shennawi, leaving the game goalless at the break.
The hosts finally made their dominance pay in the 53rd minute, with a free kick finding Elneny at the far post, and the Arsenal midfielder put the ball back across goal for defender Mahmoud Hamdi to head home from close range.
If Egypt that goal would open the floodgates, they were left disappointed at an attack which continued to stutter and left Togo goalkeeper Malcolm Barcola mostly untested. In fact it was Togo who applied the pressure for much of the latter stages of the game, forcing the North African giants onto the back foot in their search for an equaliser.
However, Egypt were able to hold out for an unconvincing – but important – victory which breathes major life into their hopes of reaching the finals in Cameroon in 2022.
The return game between the Pharaohs and the Sparrow Hawks will be held Stade de Kegue in Lome on Tuesday 17 November 2020.
Egypt (0) 1 (Hamdi 53’)
Egypt: Mohamed El-Shennawi, Mohamed Hani, Ahmed Hegazy, Mahmoud Hamdi, Ahmed Aboul-Fotouh, Mohamed Elneny, Amr El-Sulaya (Tarek Hamed 82’), Ahmed Zizo (Magdi Afsha 88’), Abdallah El-Said, Mahmoud Trezeguet (Ramadan Sobhi 74’), Mostafa Mohamed
Togo: Malcolm Barcola, Agbozo Klousseh, Kangnivi Tchoutchoui, Djene, Steve Lawson, Franco Atchou (Mathieu Dossevi 63’), Gilles Sunu (Marouf Tchakei 83’), Floyd Ayite, Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba (Ahoueke Denkey 88’), Ihlas Bebou (Elom Nya-Vedji 88’), Peniel Mlapa