With three clean sheets, solid Egypt reach quarters with another win over Ghana

Hatem Maher , Wednesday 25 Jan 2017,
Egypt's forward Mohamed Salah (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations group D football match between Egypt and Ghana in Port-Gentil on January 25, 2017 AFP

A brilliant Mohamed Salah free kick helped Egypt claim a second victory over heavyweights Ghana in less than three months to leapfrog the Black Stars and reach the African Nations Cup quarter-final as Group D winners.

The AS Roma forward wrong-footed Ghana keeper Brimah Razak with a blistering free kick after 11 minutes as Egypt secured their second group win after beating Uganda and drawing with Mali in their opening two matches.

The Pharaohs finished on top with seven points, one ahead of second-placed Ghana, setting up a mouthwatering quarter-final clash against old North African rivals Morocco, runners-up of Group C.

Egypt have not defeated Morocco since claiming a 1-0 victory in the 1986 Nations Cup on home soil. Their last meeting was in the 2006 edition, also in Egypt, which ended in a goalless draw at Cairo Stadium before the latter went on to lift the coveted trophy.

Hector Cuper's men are the only team in the tournament not to concede any goals in three group-stage matches, underlining their defensive prowess under the canny Argentinean boss who reversed their fortunes after a period of stagnation.

In November, Egypt secured a 2-0 World Cup qualifying win at home to Ghana and it was the same story at Gabon's Port-Gentil Stadium as a clinical side needed just a Salah free kick to overcome their already-qualified opponents.

Rare start

Hull City's Ahmed Elmohamady made a rare start as a right back, with the solid Ahmed Fathi moving to the other flank due to the absence of injured left-back Mohamed Abdel-Shafi.

The full-back reshuffle had no bearing on a compact Egypt side, who  once again let their opponents gain the upper hand in possession but remained watertight at the back to restrict Ghana to some tame efforts in the first half.

Salah gave Egypt the lead after 11 minutes when he arrowed a powerful left-foot free kick into the top corner to register his first ever goal in the Nations Cup, with the team then sitting back in typical fashion to soak up pressure.

Ghana struggled to mount any threats and their cause was not helped in the latter stages of the first half when lone striker Asamoah Gyan picked up an injury and was replaced with Jordan Ayew.

The closest Ghana came to scoring was a far-post header from the unmarked Daniel Amartey that went wide after a free kick on 41 minutes.

Egypt almost doubled their lead two minutes earlier when striker Marwan Mohsen intercepted a poor pass from Ghana goalkeeper Brimah Razak but his looping effort went over the bar with the goal gaping.

Assured Hadary

In the second half, Ghana upped the tempo a bit but 44-year-old goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary perfectly dealt with their half-chances as he continues to defy his age.

The oldest keeper in Nations Cup history pulled off a couple of fine saves to smother two long-range shots from Emmanuel Badu and substitute Jordan Ayew.

Repeated crosses from both flanks were also easily collected by Hadary while any aerial challenges away from the six-yard box were cleared by composed central defenders Ahmed Hegazy and Ali Gabr.

Egypt could have scored on the breakaway in the final stages but substitute Mahmoud Kahraba was flagged offside more than once, but job had already been done as the team continue to impress under Cuper despite not being entertaining.

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


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