Egypt's Mohamed Salah (L) fights for the ball with Kufigwa Khumoetsile of Botswana during their African Nations Cup qualifying soccer match in Cairo October 15, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)
Egypt completed the double over Botswana with another 2-0 victory at Cairo Stadium to keep up pressure on Senegal and Tunisia in a tough challenge to reach next year's African Nations Cup finals in Morocco.
In a carbon-copy of Friday's game in Gaborone, Egypt struggled to break down Botswana in the first half but things opened us after the break, with two goals from striker Amr Gamal and winger Mohamed Salah handing them their second Group G win after two opening defeats.
Ahly's Gamal, who was once again deployed as a lone striker as coach Shawky Gharib stuck to the same starting line-up which beat Botswana 2-0 on the road, broke the deadlock seven minutes after the break with a curling shot from just inside the area after an assist from Basel midfielder Mohamed Elneny
Salah was on target for the second successive game, notching home with aplomb after another deft long ball from Elneny on 72 minutes to send the home fans into ecstasy.
Several thousand fans were allowed to attend the match despite an ongoing crowd ban in domestic competitions. The atmosphere was largely festive until the hour mark, when some fans in the northern stands threw firecrackers onto the pitch.
The security forces swiftly reacted by firing tear gas to stop them amid concerns over the role of hardcore supporters in Egyptian football.
Egypt are third in Group G with six points from four matches, one behind Senegal and four adrift of leaders Tunisia with two matches remaining.
The Pharaohs, who have not qualified for the Nations Cup since lifting the last of their record seven trophies in 2010, host Senegal next month before facing Tunisia away from home in their final match. The top two will automatically reach the biennial tournament.
Botswana's massed ranks made life difficult for Egypt in the first half, with the hosts struggling for creativity despite the presence of attacking midfielders Walid Soliman and Salah, who supported Gamal upfront.
Too many inaccurate passes in the final third hindered Egypt, who created their first goal-scoring opportunity three minutes before the break following a neatly-worked counter attack.
Chelsea winger Salah broke clear from the right after being fed by an astute pass. He made a marauding run that ended with a snap shot from a tight angle but Botswana keeper Kabelo Dambe produced a superb one-handed save to thwart his effort.
Egypt had another chance to break the deadlock on the stroke of halftime when central defender Saad Samir was picked out by a deep cross from midfielder Amr El-Sulaya, Egypt's liveliest performer in the first half, but he miscued his header wide.
Botswana were vulnerable at the back in the second half, with Egypt slicing open their defence on several occasions.
Gamal scored the nerve-easing first goal in the 52nd minute when he held off his challenger after a defence-splitting pass from Elneny to fire home, although his shot struck the hands of Dambe before going in.
Salah was unlucky not to double the lead six minute later when his left-foot drive rattled the bar after he superbly controlled a long ball with his heel but he made amends to put the result beyond doubt in the 72nd minute.
Egypt labored in the final stages but held on for a routine victory that keeps them firmly in the hunt to qualify for the Nations Cup after two failed attempts.
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