Egypt through to African Nations Cup after 1-1 draw with Kenya

Hatem Maher , Thursday 25 Mar 2021

Egypt produced a sluggish display but did enough to reach the African Cup of Nations with one match to spare in Group G

Egypt's players celebrate after scoring during Cameroon 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualification Group G football match between Kenya and Egypt at the Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi, on March 25, 2021. AFP

Egypt secured passage to next year's African Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon after settling for a 1-1 draw away to Kenya in their penultimate qualifier on Thursday, having failed to overcome their unfancied opponents for the second time in Group G.

The Pharaohs looked to be cruising when playmaker Magdi Afsha fired them ahead as early as the second minute following a well-worked move, but they needlessly eased off to allow Kenya to control most of the game.

After wasting some good chances, the hosts grabbed a deserved equaliser when Abdallah Hassan fired home from close range following a goal-mouth scramble five minutes past the hour mark.

Kenya's hope to snatch a win and keep alive their chances of reaching the Nations Cup took a blow after full-back Johnstone Omurwa received a straight red card for elbowing striker Mostafa Mohamed in an off-the-ball incident.

Egypt could not make their numerical advantage count in the latter stages but still held on for a draw, their second with Kenya in the qualifiers, to book the group's second ticket to the Nations Cup after Comoros made history by qualifying for the first time following a draw with Togo earlier in the day.

The Pharaohs are on top of Group G with nine points, on level with Comoros and five points clear of Kenya with one match remaining in the qualifiers. Egypt end their qualifying campaign at home to Comoros on Monday.

Egypt, the Nations Cup's record winners with seven titles under their belt, will make a record-extending 25th appearance at the biennial tournament.

Salah return

Liverpool talisman Mohamed Salah made his first appearance in the qualifying campaign after missing the previous four games due to injury and a COVID-19 infection.

Although he had a hand in Egypt's early opener, he was mostly a peripheral figure, with attacking midfielders unable to feed him as the visitors produced another sluggish display devoid of any glamour.

Egypt went ahead when Salah's back-heel pass released right-back Mohamed Hani near the byline to pull the ball back into the area.

A clever dummy from Galatsaray striker Mostafa Mohamed allowed the ball to roll to Afsha, who took it in his stride, created space for himself in the area and rifled a powerful shot into the near top corner.

It was all Kenya then as Egypt appeared content to protect their slender lead.

The lively Michael Olunga miscued his effort with the goal at his mercy after a diagonal cross found him unmarked in the area on 14 minutes while Masud Juma had a goal disallowed in the 41st minute after the ball struck his arm as he skipped past Mohamed Hani and volleyed home.

Olunga hit the side netting on the rebound early in the second half while Hassan sent a free header over the bar on 61 minutes.

Egypt's only meaningful chance saw Mostafa Mohamed break clear following a long ball. He failed in his attempt to round the keeper, with Afsha gathering the loose ball and feeding Salah, whose shot went high over.

Kenya deservedly levelled the score when Hassan made the most of substitute Amr El-Sulaya's double failure to clear a cross by slotting home after an initial effort had come back off the post.

However, Omurwa's red-card took the wind out of Kenya's sails and Egypt held on to advance.

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