Egypt coach Shawky Gharib (Photo: Ahram)
A mediocre Egypt side made up of home-based players gave coach Shawky Gharib little positive signs in a 1-0 win over lowly Kenya in the team's last friendly before meeting Senegal in their opening African Nations Cup qualifying game.
Amr Gamal, who came on as a second-half substitute, notched what proved to be the winner 10 minutes after the restart for his first international goal but the result was not flattering, with modest Kenya offering little threat upfront.
The Kenyans massed their ranks and Egypt lacked imagination in a game that witnessed a few goal-scoring opportunities at a renovated stadium in the Upper Egyptian City of Aswan on Saturday evening.
The Pharaohs missed 11 foreign-based players named in their squad for the opening Nations Cup qualifier away to Senegal on 5 September, with Gharib trying out the players who caught the eyes in the Egyptian Premier League.
Fans were allowed to attend the match despite an ongoing crowd ban due to security concerns. Egyptian authorities have recently said supporters will be also present in the stands when Egypt host Tunisia in their second Group G game on 10 September.
Egypt's three-man midfield looked short on spark and creativity and Zamalek's Moemen Zakareya, who was assigned playmaking duties, struggled to feed Hani El-Egeizi and Khaled Qamar upfront.
El-Egeizi, who plays for Egyptian Premier League runners-up Smouha, was typically sluggish while his strike partner Qamar appeared lively but wasteful, having squandered Egypt's two first-half chances.
He side-footed a tame shot into the safe hands of the keeper after being found unmarked by a low cross from Hazem Emam on 37 minutes before failing to beat the custodian again from a tight angle after a Kenyan defensive lapse on the stroke of halftime.
Egypt's 41-year-old keeper Essam El-Hadary summed up a poor half when he waved to the crowd to urge them to cheer on the Pharaohs, whose lethargic performance will cast doubts over their ability to end a dismal Nations Cup qualifying ran stretching back to 2011.
A similar labored display characterized the second half despite several substitutions made by Gharib but Egypt at least managed to break the deadlock on 55 minutes.
Ahly's goal-poacher Gamal escaped the attention of his marker to receive a floated cross from left-back Sabri Rahil with a sliding effort, steering the ball into the bottom corner of the net past the keeper.
Gamal had a late effort to extend the gap but his side-footed shot from a right-wing cross was tipped over by the keeper.
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