Mohamed Salah said on Sunday he breathed a sigh of relief when the referee blew the final whistle in the 1-1 draw in Nigeria as he was on his way to one-on-one chance to score because hundreds of home fans were watching the game on the side track around the court.
Shortly after Salah had equalised for Egypt in the first minute of stoppage time in Nations' qualifying draw at Nigeria on Friday, the AS Roma winger appeared en route to stage a memorable comeback in the dying moments when he began to sprint unchallenged from the halfway line towards goal, only for the ref to end the game.
The ref's decision sparked outrage from the Egyptian players, who rushed at the referee to admonish him for what they saw as a bad call.
"I breathed a sigh of relief after the ref blew the final whistle," Salah, 23, told Al-Ahram Daily newspaper.
"I was afraid when I received the ball and was heading directly towards the goal to score what could have been the winner," Salah said.
"Had I been able to score, I wouldn't have been able to tell what exactly the fans' response would be, that's why I thanked God right after the final whistle."
Egypt, now top of Group G on seven points, host second-placed Nigeria for the fourth round of the Cup of Nations group-stage qualifiers at Alexandria's Borg El-Arab Stadium on Tuesday.
There are only two points separating the two teams, as they vie in a group whose winner directly qualifies for next year's Cup of Nations in Gabon.
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