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Poor Egypt on verge of another CAN failure after home loss to Senegal

Hatem Maher, Saturday 15 Nov 2014
Egypt v Senegal
Senegal's Mame Diouf celebrates after scoring a goal against Egypt during their African Nations Cup qualifying soccer match in Cairo (Photo: Reuters)
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Egypt have all but demolished their hopes of reaching the African Cup of Nations, with a 1-0 home defeat by Senegal leaving them on the brink of the unwanted record of failing to qualify for the biennial showpiece three times in a row.

Mame Biram Diouf, who plays for Stoke City in England, made the most of a howler by keeper Ahmed El-Shennawy, who deputized for the injured Sherif Ekramy, after eight minutes to silence the vociferous home crowd and ensure Senegal's advance to the Nations Cup along with Group G leaders Tunisia.

Tens of thousands of fans were allowed to attend the match at Cairo Stadium after the authorities opted to lift the ongoing crowd ban but they grew more and more frustrated as the game wore on, with Egypt struggling to break down a dogged Senegalese defence.

They chanted against coach Shawky Gharib in the dying minutes, demanding that he leave although the Egyptian Football Association said recently he would remain in his post until after the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

Egypt's loss leaves them third in the group with six points, four behind Senegal and five adrift of Tunisia with  one match remaining.

The Pharaohs, who also lost to Senegal in Dakar and suffered a 1-0 home defeat by Tunisia before claiming two straight wins over Botswana, retain an outside chance of making it to next year's finals in Equatorial Guinea.

They will be seeking to finish as the best third-placed side in the seven groups if they beat Tunisia away from home in their final match on Wednesday.

Egypt won three Nations Cup titles in 2006, 2008 and 2010 for an unprecedented feat but have struggled since, with a political upheaval and football instability putting them on a downward slide that saw them miss out on the 2012 and 2013 editions.

The retirement of some key players such as Mohamed Abou-Treika and Wael Gomaa plus the loss of form of others made life more difficult for Gharib, who succeeded American Bob Bradley following Egypt's failure to reach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Meteb return

Striker Emad Meteb made his first appearance for Egypt in more than two years, with Gharib fielding him as a lone striker in front of two attacking midfielders following the injury of Ahly's frontman Amr Gamal.

The inexperienced Sabri Rahil replaced the injured Mohamed Abdel-Shafi as a left-back but he was a peripheral figure throughout.

Diouf sent an angled shot just wide from inside the area after six minutes but he quickly made up for the miss, towering ahead of El-Shennawy to head home into an empty net after the unfit keeper made a poor jump.

The Zamalek custodian was replaced with the 33-year-old Mohamed Sobhi after falling awkwardly on his ankle as Egypt struggled to atone for the dreadful blunder, dominating possession but rarely finding a way past a steadfast Senegalese defence.

The hosts, who were roared on by a passionate crowd, created their first chance after 25 minutes when winger Walid Soliman darted down the right flank and cut the ball back to Chelsea's Mohamed Salah, whose weak low shot was easily gathered by keeper Bouna Coundoul.

Although Senegal looked tame upfront, having fully focused on how to tighten their defence, they could have doubled their advantage on the stroke of halftime when Egypt's Ibrahim Salah lost possession on the edge of the area and Papakouli Diop pounced to send a curling shot that struck the bar.

Egypt's three-man midfield, featuring Ibrahim Salah, Basel's Mohamed Elneny and Ahly's Mahmoud Trezeguet, gave away many passes in the middle as once again a lack of spark took its toll on the team's attacking display.

A marauding run by Mohamed Salah early in the second half saw him go to the byline with Emad Meteb lurking in the area, but the off-form forward's stray cross went begging.

Soliman, who otherwise had a quiet game, ran half the length of the pitch unopposed on 70 minutes but was unlucky to see his right-foot shot from the edge of the area sail narrowly over the bar.

Gharib introduced another striker in Arafa El-Sayed, the current Egyptian Premier League top scorer, to beef up his attack but the Egypt debutant was guilty of a glaring miss deep in stoppage time when he sent a free header wide following a pinpoint cross from substitute Hazem Emam. 

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