File photo: Egypt's Mostafa Mohamed
Egypt striker Mostafa Mohamed came off the bench to score at the death and salvage a 1-1 draw away to Gabon in the World Cup qualifiers on Sunday after the Pharaohs had once again produced a lackluster display.
The visitors were largely outplayed by their less fancied opponents in Franceville and their cause was not helped when midfielder Omar Gaber, who made a surprising start, was red-carded for a second bookable offence on 71 minutes.
Egypt were duly punished two minutes later as Gabon deservedly went ahead when substitute Jim Allevinah drilled home after a superb exchange of passes.
Coach Hossam El-Badry threw caution to the wind after making several attacking substitutions, introducing the likes of Mostafa Mohamed and veteran schemer Abdallah El-Said.
Galatasaray's on-loan striker Mohamed missed the opening 1-0 victory over Angola as he negotiated a move to French side Bordeaux, which eventually fell through, and El-Badry said he was not in the right frame of mind to start the game.
But he made all the difference to net his first international goal on his sixth Egypt appearance.
He also stole the limelight from Liverpool talisman Mohamed Salah, who produced a subdued performance on his first appearance in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers after he also missed the Angola clash in Cairo due to the UK's coronavirus quarantine restrictions.
Egypt top the group with four points from two games, one ahead of Libya, who can move top if they beat Angola in the other group match on Tuesday. Gabon are third on one point.
El-Badry deployed a defensive strategy that featured three central midfielders, but it hardly bore fruit as Gabon exploited gaps in Egypt's porous flanks.
Egypt created the game's first chance following a rare flowing move after eight minutes.
Salah made a jinking run down the right, cut inside his marker and fed lone striker Mohamed Sherif, who laid off the ball to Magdi Afsha with a fine back-heel but the Ahly playmaker's volley went over the bar.
Egypt then needlessly retreated into their shell as Gabon toyed with their defensive midfielders and defenders.
The surprise deployment of Pyramids duo Ahmed Tawfik and Gaber was meant to close down spaces on Egypt's right flank but they were instead exposed far too often.
Gabon went close with several shots and had a goal harshly disallowed for offside when Denis Bouanga swept home midway through the first half.
The hosts spurned their first real chance on the stroke of halftime when a neat one-two was intercepted by Ahmed Hegazy but the central defender's poor headed clearance fell to Aaron Boupendza, who mis-hit his volley with the goal at his mercy.
Egypt were indebted to goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shennawi for denying a certain goal on 50 minutes.
Boupendza was found unmarked on the right hand side of the area to break clear but El-Shennawi rushed out in a timely manner to smother his effort with a fine stop.
Egypt remained on the back foot and Gabon instantly made their numerical advantage count to go ahead, Allevinah slotting into the bottom corner from inside the area after a defence-splitting give-and-go.
Egypt pushed forward en masse in the latter stages and Mohamed took full advantage of a rare goal-scoring opportunity on 90 minutes.
Fellow substitute Salah Mohsen leapt between two markers to flick a hopeful long ball to Mohamed, whose initial chip was palmed by keeper Anthony Mfa Meuzi before looping goalwards, with Mohamed making the follow-up to head into an empty net from close range.
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