Rookie defender sends Egypt to AFCON last 16 with win over Sudan

Rookie defender Mohamed Abdel-Moneim proved an unlikely hero, with his first-half header giving an otherwise lethargic Egypt side a 1-0 win over Sudan and a place in the African Cup of Nations round of 16 on Wednesday.

Hatem Maher , Wednesday 19 Jan 2022,
Mohamed Abdel-Moneim
Egypt s Mohamed Abdel-Moneim, middle, jumps as he celebrates with teammates after scoring his team s first goal, during the African Cup of Nations 2022 group D soccer match between Egypt and Sudan at the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium in Yaounde, Cameroon, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. AP

Abdel-Moneim netted what proved to be the winner 10 minutes before the break following a corner as Egypt continued their bid to win their first Nations Cup crown since 2010.

The 22-year-old, part of a makeshift defence who was only drafted in after Mahmoud El-Wensh picked up an injury in the 1-0 win over Guinea-Bissau last Saturday, left his mark on only his fourth international appearance.

Although Egypt wasted several clear-cut chances as Sudan offered little resistance, they looked shorn of ideas and were guilty of some wayward passes in the final third.

Liverpool talisman Mohamed Salah was a peripheral figure, giving away possession far too easily as Sudan's defenders easily contained him.

Egypt finished second in Group D with six points, three behind leaders Nigeria, who became the only team to bag maximum points in the tournament after beating Guinea-Bissau 2-0 in the other group match.

The record seven-time African champions will meet the winners of Group E, who will be decided on Thursday, in the round of 16 next Wednesday. Ivory Coast, Algeria, Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone all have a chance of reaching the knockout phase.

Early onslaught  

Egypt mounted an early onslaught, but with Salah well-shackled, other forwards took up the task of unlocking Sudan's rearguard.

Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny fired a volley over the bar in the first minute after lone striker Mostafa Mohamed chested a cross into his path, before the latter headed just wide following a floated free kick four minutes later.

Sudan had a chance of their own early on when Mohammed Zorga cut inside Egypt's Abdel-Moneim on the right hand side of the area, but he blasted his shot high over.

Veteran playmaker Abdallah El-Said whipped in some dangerous corners and one of them resulted in the opener, with Abdel-Moneim stooping to head home from six yards out after being found unmarked in the 35th minute.

Sudan keeper Mohamed Mustafa pulled off some fine saves to keep his side in the game, including clawing away a goal-bound shot from El-Said. However, he was taken off at halftime after sustaining an injury, making way for Ali Abdallah Abu-Eshrein.

Egypt eased off in the second half as Sudan gained more possession, but the Falcons of Jediane were still unable to create openings.

The second period's best chance fell to Egypt's holding midfielder Amr El-Sulaya, whose first-timer went over the crossbar after Salah had laid off the ball to him on 65 minutes.

Salah also had a rare opportunity when he skipped past a challenger in the area and drilled a low shot with his weak right foot, but Abu-Eshrein did well to smother it.

Egypt laboured in the latter stages but, although they got the job done, their form does not bode well for their demanding supporters, who saw the team bow out at the last-16 stage three years ago on home soil following similar uninspiring displays.

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

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