Egypt's mediocre, new-look side lose to Senegal in CAN qualifiers

Hatem Maher, Saturday 6 Sep 2014

A largely inexperienced Egypt side slump to a 2-0 defeat at Senegal in their opening game of the 2015 African Cup of Nations qualifiers on Friday


Egypt's new-look side showed no signs they can make up for past woes as their campaign to reach the African Cup of Nations for the first time since 2010 got off to a disappointing start, with Senegal claiming a 2-0 home win in the opening Group G encounter on Friday.

Two copycat first-half strikes, including one on the stroke of halftime, from Mame Biram Diouf and Sadio Mane spoiled the competitive debut of coach Shawky Gharib and cast doubts over the Pharaohs' ability to end a barren run.

Egypt, the record holders of the Nations Cup with seven titles under their belt, have made wholesale changes to their squad following the retirement of some key veterans such as Mohamed Abou-Treika and Wael Gomaa and the loss of form of others but it seems there is a long way to go before they can hit top gear.

Having failed to reach the biennial tournament in 2012 and 2013, Egypt will be desperate to avoid the same fate again this time around but Friday's reverse in Dakar puts them in an uncomfortable position before they meet Tunisia in their second group game in Cairo on Wednesday.

The match was the first to take place at Senegal's Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium since October 2012 when crowd riots led to the cancellation of their Nations Cup qualifier against the Ivory Coast.

The feverish supporters rose to the occasion, with their deafening cheers egging on a determined Senegal side.

Disappointing night

Egypt's starting line-up included three players who played less than five international games, with none of them leaving his mark in a disappointing night for the ailing side.

The team's sluggish three-man defence was easily exposed while the two central midfielders, Hossam Ghaly and Mohamed Elneny, failed to close down spaces and were frequently caught out of position as Senegal outpaced and outmuscled the visitors.

Khaled Kamar cut an isolated figure upfront, with deep-lying forwards Ahmed Hammoudi and Mohamed Salah providing little service to the newly-signed Zamalek striker.

Senegal created a couple of half-chances early on before Diouf deservedly put them ahead on 17 minutes when he nipped in between defenders Ahmed Ouka and Shawky El-Said to run onto a defence-splitting pass from  Dame N'Doye and beat Sherif Ekramy with a firm shot that struck the keeper's hands and went in.

Egypt were let down by too many mis-placed passes, with natural right-back Ahmed Fathi, who played in an unfamiliar position on the left, in particular struggling to get the ball out of his own half.

Senegal extended their lead in typical fashion when a deep, threaded pass found Mane who broke clear and dinked the ball over the hapless Ekramy, punishing the Egypt rearguard for another costly error and wowing an enthusiastic and vociferous crowd.

The introduction of Ahly's in-form striker Amr Gamal, who also played less than five international games, and Zamalek's pacy winger Hazem Emam after the break gave Egypt some impetus as Senegal took their foot off the gas pedal in the early stages of the second half.

Chelsea winger Mohamed Salah, who had a quiet night, was guilty of spurning the first genuine opportunities for a toothless Egypt.

He dithered on the ball when released clear eight minutes after the restart and volleyed over the crossbar from a tight angle after being picked out by a superb chipped pass from Elneny.

Although Senegal notably eased off, Egypt still posed little threat.

They had a late penalty claim waved away by the referee after Gamal was allegedly brought down in the area with nine minutes remaining and substitute striker Ahmed Koka, who plays for Rio Ave in Portugal, sent a free header over the bar in stoppage time.

Senegal striker Moussa Sow, who came on as a second-half substitute, sent a low cross that went begging just before the final whistle but the two goals they scored in the first half were enough to give Senegal all three points in the first meeting between both sides since the 2006 African Nations Cup semi-final in Egypt.

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