File photo of Egypt's Mohamed Salah, who scored the second goal against Botswana (AP)
Egypt made up for a disastrous start to their Nations Cup qualifying campaign by claiming a 2-0 victory away to Botswana on Friday which revived their hopes of reaching next year's Morocco finals as coach Shawky Gharib rang the changes.
The ailing Pharaohs, who have not reached the biennial tournament since lifting the last of their record seven trophies in Angola in 2010, duly overcame a mediocre Botswana side with two second-half goals from Mohamed Elneny and Mohamed Salah for their first Group G win.
Gharib, who is masterminding a squad overhaul following the retirement of some key players, dropped several players who were largely anonymous or error-ridden in two defeats by Senegal and Tunisia, bringing on the footballers who caught the eyes in the first few games of the Egyptian Premier League.
His decision paid dividends with a convincing display in Gaborone that gave Egypt their first three points, three behind leading duo Senegal and Tunisia who clash in the other group game later on Friday.
Egypt will be expected to easily overcome Botswana again when they host them in Cairo on Wednesday.
Gharib reshuffled his defence with the introduction of Ahly duo Mohamed Naguib and Saad Samir in the heart of a four-man backline, but they were barely troubled as Botswana offered little threat upfront.
The visitors looked assured at the back but, for all their domination of possession, they were largely toothless upfront in a first half which saw them create a couple of goal-scoring opportunities.
The Egypt forwards were let down by some poor control of long balls on the edge of the area. They also sorely missed the presence of a classic playmaker who can dictate play, dither on the ball when needed and distribute neat passes to onrushing wingers down both flanks.
Although attacking midfielders Walid Soliman and Salah, who supported lone striker Amr Gamal, looked lively, they were a bit profligate.
Egypt's only first-half chances fell to central midfielder Amr El-Sulaya, who replaced the off-form Hossam Ghaly, and Chelsea winger Salah, who is often criticized for being wasteful in front of goal.
Soliman picked out El-Sulaya with an astute chipped pass on the left hand side of the penalty area but the Ismaily man's header narrowly missed the target.
Few moments later, Salah skipped past his challenger and broke clear from the right but his weak shot from a tight angle was easily collected by Botswana keeper Kabelo Dambe.
The three holding midfielders Gharib deployed looked composed, pushing forward in the second half to make the difference after giving the misfiring forwards a helping hand.
Basel midfielder Elneny opened the scoring with a superb strike on 56 minutes to end Botswana's resistance.
He let fly from distance with a right-foot piledriver that left keeper Kabelo Dambe with no chance, hitting the top corner.
Salah, who is struggling to play on a more regular basis with English Premier League leaders Chelsea, made the game safe six minutes later after receiving a lay-off from Gamal with a low shot that went into the bottom corner of the net from the edge of the area.
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