A first-half header from Mostafa Mohamed gave an otherwise lethargic Egypt side a 1-0 victory over Mali in Cairo in the opening game of the U23 African Cup of Nations on Friday.
The in-form Zamalek frontman sent a bullet header home after leaping above his challenger just before the half-hour mark, with his goal proving the difference in a turgid affair.
Mali, whose players made some flying tackles throughout the game, hardly looked like threatening, although they spurned a golden chance to level the score in the second half.
Despite the win, Egyptian fans will be alarmed by a disappointing performance that did not live up to expectations as the team aim to qualify for the Olympic Games for the first time since 2012.
Egypt top Group A with three points, with Cameroon and Ghana meeting in the other group match later in the day. The top three in the tournament will reach next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Despite their territorial dominance, Egypt struggled for goal-scoring chances early on, with Mali's physical approach making life difficult for them.
They still created a couple of half-chances, with the Mali keeper collecting two headers from midfielder Ahmed Aboul-Fotouh and winger Salah Mohsen. Egypt also had to make an unscripted substitution after playmaker Nasser Maher suffered a shoulder injury following an aerial challenge.
The breakthrough came on 29 minutes when the burly Mostafa beat his marker to a left-wing cross from Ahmed Aboul-Fotouh to power a header past the keeper.
Mali looked the better side in the second half but Egypt's defence was largely untroubled, apart from a solitary lapse in concentration that could have cost them dear.
In the 49th minute, Aly Malle was found unmarked at the far post, with his header blocked by keeper Mohamed Sobhi. The ball then fell to Ibrahim Kane, whose shot rattled the upright with the goal at his mercy.
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