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Saturday, 18 November 2017

Shikabala shines after 3-year absence as Egypt draw with Ghana in final qualifier

Hatem Maher , Sunday 12 Nov 2017
Shikabala
Shikabala celebrates his goal against Ghana in Sunday's 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw (Photo: the Egyptian FA's official Facebook page)
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Forgotten winger Mahmoud Shikabala netted a superb goal on his return to Egypt's fold after a three-year absence as the already-qualified side drew 1-1 away to Ghana in their final World Cup qualifier on Sunday.

The Zamalek-bound man, who is on loan at Saudi Arabia's Al-Raed, made his first appearance since featuring in an African Nations Cup qualifier against Tunisia in September 2014, scoring his first competitive goal with Egypt following a neat move he started as they ended their campaign on top of Group E with 13 points.

Edwin Gyasi struck for a much-changed Ghana side in the 64th minute to cancel out Shikabala's opener three minutes earlier.

The temperamental Shikabala, 31, has often been criticised for failing to live up to his potential but he looked determined to earn a place in Egypt's squad for the World Cup, producing an assured display in a playmaking role behind lone striker Amr Marei.

Egypt, who secured their ticket to next year's Russia finals when they beat Congo 2-1 in a dramatic game in Alexandria last month, tasted one defeat in six group-stage matches, winning four matches and drawing once.

Uganda finished second in the group with nine points, with Ghana third on seven and Congo at the bottom with two.

New faces  

Both sides made wholesale changes to their starting line-ups as they sought to test some new faces after things were settled in the group.

Egypt coach Hector Cuper introduced eight unfamiliar faces, with Etoile du Sahel striker Marei making his first appearance and Shikabala playing his first international match in three years.

Karim Hafez, who plays for RC Lens in the French Ligue2, replaced the injured Mohamed Abdel-Shafi as a left-back and Wigan Athletic's central midfielder Sam Morsy played instead of Zamalek's Tarek Hamed.

Egypt and Ghana made unscripted substitutions in the first half after central defender Rami Rabia and Ghana's Nana Opoku were injured. They made way for Saad Samir and Patrick Twumasi respectively.

Although there was nothing to lose, Cuper stuck to his trademark cautious strategy, with Egypt defending deep for the majority of the first half.

The Pharaohs had two half-chances through winger Mahmoud Trezeguet following a couple of breakaways.

Early in the game, he shot high over from a tight angle after being fed by Shikabala before having another effort blocked by keeper Richard Ofori following a pass from Ramadan Sobhi two minutes before halftime.

Ghana tried some shots from outside the area and had a penalty claim waved away by the referee on 21 minutes when Raphael Dwamena fell under an apparent challenge from goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy following a defence-splitting pass.

Ofori pulled off two superb saves early in the second half to thwart Egypt, who looked increasingly dangerous going forward.

The South Africa-based goalkeeper dived to his right to block Shikala's snap shot at his near post from inside the area before throwing himself at the feet of defender Ali to save his goal-bound effort after the ensuing corner caused mayhem in the area.

At the other end, Dwamena's low shot went just wide after a pull back from Lumor Agbenyenu but Egypt finished off another counter attack to go ahead on 61 minutes.

Shikabala threaded a pass to Trezeguet on the right and the Kasimpasa winger squared the ball back to the schemer, who controlled it with a deft touch before rifling home a left-foot shot on the turn.

Ghana leveled the score three minutes later when Gyasi's shot from the edge of the area deflected off a defender and wrong-footed Ekramy, delighting a sell-out crowd in Cape Coast.

Egypt survived a barrage of Ghana attacks in the latter stages to avoid defeat, with Ekramy producing a brilliant double save in stoppage time to prevent the hosts from snatching a win at the death.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

 
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