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Thursday, 21 September 2017

Below-par Egypt lose top spot after stunning defeat by Uganda

Hatem Maher , Thursday 31 Aug 2017
Egypt
File photo of Egypt's clash against Uganda at the African Cup of Nations in January 2017
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Egypt produced another lackluster display yet to lose top spot in their World Cup qualifying group following a surprise 1-0 defeat at Uganda, giving a lifeline to Ghana who have a chance to revive their hopes of reaching next year's Russia finals.

Emmanuel Okwi, Uganda's liveliest performer, sent the home fans  to raptures when he eluded tame challenges from a couple of Egypt defenders to fire a low shot into the bottom corner from inside the area six minutes after the break.

Egypt, who were largely disappointing throughout, had some territorial dominance after falling behind but struggled to mount real threats apart from a point-blank header from Mohamed Salah that forced a superb one-handed save from Uganda keeper Denis Onyango.

The Pharaohs' trademark cautious strategy under coach Hector Cuper, which was cited as the reason they were able to reach the African Nations Cup final, held them back against Uganda and repeated long balls caused little trouble for the spirited hosts.

Uganda, who sprang the group's first surprise when they held Ghana to a 0-0 draw away from home in October last year, moved top with seven points from three matches, one ahead of Egypt.

Ghana have a solitary point but should they beat Congo (0 points) in a double header, they will be in contention for a place at the World Cup.

Egypt host Uganda on Tuesday at Alexandria's Borg El-Arab Stadium before facing Congo, also at home, in October.

Bumpy pitch

Egypt were in for some rough tackles in the early exchanges of a closely-fought first half, where goal-scoring chances were at a premium.

The bumpy pitch made it hard for both sides to string passes together but Uganda had the upper hand in terms of threats, while keeping close tabs on Egypt and Liverpool's in-form winger Mohamed Salah at the other end.

Egypt's 44-year-old keeper Essam El-Hadary, who was surprisingly given the nod ahead of Ahly's Sherif Ekramy and Zamalek's Ahmed El-Shennawi, was on alert to tip over a right-wing cross from the lively Emmanuel Okwi after 13 minutes.

Okwi continued to expose Egypt's left-back Mohamed Abdel-Shafi and Uganda's best chance fell to him after 33 minutes when he was found unmarked inside the area, only to see his volley thwarted by El-Hadary's legs.

The veteran guardian, who will become the oldest player in World Cup history should Egypt make it to next year's Russia finals, also tipped over a header from Derrick Nsibambi who towered above two markers.

Egypt had a goal disallowed for offside shortly before halftime and playmaker Abdallah El-Said spurned their only half-chance two minutes before the interval when he opted to send a low cross rather than shoot from five yards out after being fed by Saudi-based forward Mahmoud Kahraba.

El-Hadary dived to his right to save a powerful low shot from Farouk Miya early in the second half but was powerless to stop Okwi from breaking the deadlock.

A long ball was flicked by Murushid Juuko to Okwi on the right hand side of the area, with the Tanzania-based striker holding off Abdel-Shafi and central defender Ahmed Hegazi to bury the ball into the bottom corner.

Egypt slightly improved following the introduction of striker Amr Gamal, Stoke City winger Ramadan Sobhi and Ahly playmaker Saleh Gomaa but still struggled in the final third.

However, they managed to create a clear-cut chance on 62 minutes when Sobhi whipped in an inviting cross to the far post which was met by a diving header from Salah, but Onyango produced a brilliant reflex save to keep Uganda in front.

Gomaa's audacious lobbed effort was also clawed away by Onyango in the latter stages as Uganda claimed their first ever victory over their fancied opponents.

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

 
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