Egypt players celebrate their opening goal against Togo (Ahram)
A much-changed Egypt side moved within touching distance of a place in the African Cup of Nations Cup after easing to a 3-1 away victory over Togo on Tuesday to complete the double over the West African country.
Although Togo threatened Egypt on several occasions, it was the Pharaohs who proved more clinical with first-half goals from Ahly playmaker Magdi Afsha and debutant Mohamed Sherif as well as a second-half strike from Aston Villa winger Mahmoud Trezeguet.
Elom Nya-Vedji scored a stoppage-time consolation for Togo, who are now out of contention for a place in the Cameroon finals in early 2022.
Egypt, who also beat Togo 1-0 at home on Saturday, moved level on top with surprise package Comoros on eight points each, five clear of third-placed Kenya. Togo are rooted to the bottom with a solitary point.
If record eight-time African champions Egypt avoid a defeat away to Kenya in March, they will seal progress to the Nations Cup with one match to spare in Group G.
Egypt coach Hossam El-Badry made seven changes to his starting line-up due to several absences, with Liverpool star Mohamed Salah and Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny sitting out after contracting COVID-19.
Afsha made a rare start while Sherif, who is on loan at Enppi from Ahly, was given his debut after netting 14 goals for the sixth-placed in the Egyptian Premier League last season.
Togo had the better of the early exchanges, exposing vulnerabilities in the heart of Egypt's defence as Ittihad Jeddah's newly-signed defender Ahmed Hegazi was repeatedly overcome.
Kodjo Fo Doh Laba created their best chance after 10 minutes, flicking the ball past Hegazi to outpace him and race goalwards, only to send his angled effort across the six-yard box.
Peniel Mlapa also sent a free header just over the bar two minutes later after a right-wing cross.
Egypt keeper Mohamed El-Shennawi made a superb stop to thwart what would have been an own goal from Hegazi before Afsha scored against the run of play on 18 minutes.
He robbed a midfielder after applying pressure on him, collecting a half-hearted defensive clearance and cutting inside another defender before planting a fine low shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
Sherif added the second on 32 minutes when a punt from El-Shennawi was mis-judged by the last Togo defender to fall for the 24-year-old, who stabbed the ball home past the advancing keeper.
Togo hardy gave up though, spurning a clear chance early in the second half when Mathieu Dossevi blasted a volley over the crossbar after being found unmarked at the far post.
But any hopes they had to stage a comeback were extinguished soon, the lurking Trezeguet adding the second on 52 minutes when Ayman Ashraf's long free kick from the halfway line eluded the entire defence and picked him out to volley home.
Both sides had further chances to score in an end-to-end half, with Togo finally rewarded three minutes into the additional time when Nya-Vedji turned in a shot from close range after a goal-mouth scramble.
But it was too little, too late as Egypt ran out winners to make up for a disappointing start to their qualifying campaign, which saw them settle for draws with minnows Comoros and Kenya in their opening two games.
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