Dangerous on the break but porous at the back, Egypt failed to give coach Shawky Gharib a second win in as many matches after throwing away a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 at World Cup-bound Chile on Saturday.
The Pharaohs sprang the offside trap twice in the first 16 minutes to catch Chile by surprise, thanks to strikes from Mohamed Salah and Khaled Qamar, who netted his first international goal.
Chile, who will play in World Cup Group G along with defending champions Spain, 2010 runners-up Holland and Australia, roared back in style. They displayed an attractive brand of football that included catchy feints and defence-splitting passes to recover from the early lapse and record a convincing win.
Marcelo Diaz pulled one back in the first half and two identical combinations between Alexis Sanchez and striker Eduardo Vargas saw the latter notch a brace after the break.
It was Egypt’s first defeat under Gharib, who took over after American tactician Bob Bradley departed following his failure to guide the World Cup-hungry side to next month’s Brazil finals.
In Gharib’s first game in charge, the seven-time African champions defeated Bosnia, who will also play in the World Cup, 2-0 in Austria in March. Egypt's next friendly will be against Jamaica in London on 4 June.
Egypt played with a cautious strategy to stifle Chile’s vibrant attack, with three central defenders and as many holding midfielders leaving little room for the hosts in the first quarter of an hour.
Hossam Ghaly, who plays for Lierse in Belgium, orchestrated Egypt’s build-up play from deep, with his neat control of the ball and threaded passes causing constant menace to a shaky and naïve Chile defence.
Chile’s high backline and over-reliance on the offside trap left them exposed as Egypt hit two goals in quick succession to stun the home crowd at the Estadio Nacional in Santiago.
The first came after 12 minutes when Chelsea’s Salah timed his run to perfection to break clear following a through pass from former Basel teammate Mohamed El-Neny and fire home past goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
In a carbon copy move four minutes later, a long ball from defender Aly Ghazal released Qamar, who perfectly controlled the ball and looped it over the advancing Bravo and into the net.
Chile piled on pressure after falling behind, with Egypt and Ahly goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy pulling off a string of impressive saves.
Alexis Sanchez was closely marked by Rami Rabia but the Ahly defender was no match for the Barcelona winger, who was Chile’s liveliest performer. He incessantly roamed on the flanks and left his challengers chasing shadows on many occasions.
He set up Diaz for Chile’s first goal after 26 minutes when he held off Rabia and ran down the right flank before crossing low to the Basel midfielder, who flicked the ball and sent a bicycle kick past the despairing dive of Ekramy.
However, Alexis’s profligacy hindered a Chile side who had the better of the latter stages in an interesting first half.
He had a close-range volley superbly blocked by Ekramy at the near post and headed over the bar with the goal at his mercy on the stroke of halftime.
Some sloppy defending in the second half cost Egypt what would have been a morale-boosting win over Chile, who claimed a 2-1 victory in their previous meeting in February 2013.
Alexis continued to cause Egypt’s defence all sorts of problems, combining well with Valencia forward Vargas to take full advantage of their poor marking and positioning.
In one such move on the hour mark, Vargas restored parity when he latched onto Alexis’ chipped pass to place the ball under the body of Egypt’s 41-year-old keeper Essam El-Hadary, who replaced Ekramy in the second half as Gharib made all six substitutions which affected his team’s rhythm.
A similar move saw Vargas escape the attention of towering defender Ghazal, who plays for Nacional in Portugal, to dink the ball over El-Hadary and put Chile ahead with 12 minutes remaining.
Egypt pushed forward in the dying minutes and were unlucky not to equalize when a looping effort from substitute Hazem Emam was cleared off the line by a Chile defender.
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