Defending champions Egypt will officially miss out on a place in next year’s African Cup of Nations after their new-look team suffered a 2-1 defeat by Sierra Leone on Saturday.
The hosts broke the deadlock on the quarter hour mark, thanks to an own goal but Egypt managed to restore parity on the stroke of halftime through a simple tap-in from striker Marwan Mohsen.
Sierra Leone’s Mohamed Bangura converted a penalty with one minute remaining to send the home fans into raptures and revive his team’s hopes of booking a place at next year’s Nations Cup finals in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
Tens of Sierra Leone supporters invaded the pitch in ecstatic mood following the final whistle after Sierra Leone moved level on eight points with Group G leaders South Africa.
South Africa can regain their three-point lead at the top if they beat Niger, who have six points, on Sunday. Egypt, whose hopes of reaching the Nations Cup were effectively over following their goalless draw at home to South Africa in June, remain at the bottom on two points with one match to go.
Egypt’s Olympic team, who are led by Hany Ramzy, were given the task of completing the qualifiers as they prepare for the final phase of the qualifying campaign for next year’s London Games.
Veteran midfielder Ahmed Hassan was the only senior player to be included in Egypt’s starting lineup as he made his 176th international appearance to close to within two matches of former Saudi Arabia keeper Mohamed Al-Deayea, who holds the record for most international caps.
Sierra Leone, roared on by the enthusiastic home crowd, mounted early pressure that resulted in a 15th-minute goal after Sheriff Suma’s corner at the near post was converted by an Egypt defender into his own net.
Egypt’s too many mis-placed passes in midfield helped Sierra Leone maintain the upper hand until the 33rd minute when the visitors created their first goal-scoring opportunity.
Winger Ahmed Magdy, who plays for Egyptian Premier League newly-promoted side Ghazl Mahalla, pounced on the failure of Sierra Leone’s defense to clear a cross to send a powerful volley that went just over the bar.
He had another chance three minutes later when he cut in from the right flank but his low shot narrowly missed the target.
Egypt’s pressure paid dividends when a mistake by Sierra Leone keeper Christian Caulker gifted them the equalizer just before the half-time whistle.
Caulker, who plays for FC Kallon in his homeland, parried a tame shot from Mohamed Salah into the path of Petrojet striker Mohsen, who made no mistake on the rebound to draw Egypt level.
Sierra Leone put Egypt on the back foot in the second half, launching waves of attacks and laying siege to the area of their opponents, who opted to sit back and keep the score 1-1.
Egypt were lucky to survive a series of clear-cut chances, thanks to some desperate defending from Ahmed Hegazy and saves from goalkeeper Mohamed Abou-Gabal.
Sierra Leone went close to restoring their lead when a defensive mix-up allowed Mohamed Bangura to break clear but he shot poorly wide with the goal at his mercy.
However, the Celtic striker made amends when he sent Abou-Gabal the wrong way from the spot in the dying minutes after Egypt defender Mohamed Abdel-Fattah felled an opponent to give Sierra Leone a precious victory.