Afsha leads Egypt to 2-1 win over Gabon in World Cup qualifiers
The Ahly playmaker was surprisingly dropped from the October double header against Libya and was an unused sub against Angola 2-2 last Friday, only to make a big impact in the final game of the group stage.
The Pharaohs had already secured their passage to the playoff round, but the victory marked an ending on a high note, as Egypt has now extended its lead at the top with 14 points, seven ahead of second-placed Gabon.
Queiroz reshuffled his starting lineup for this game, making six changes to the team that faced Angola in Luanda last Friday.
The coach kept several key players on the bench, including Liverpool winger Mohamed Salah and Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny.
Egypt was off to a quick start, as forward Ahmed Yasser Rayan was tripped in the area after only four minutes, allowing Afsha to score the opener from the spot as early as the fifth minute.
However, the hosts failed to impose their rhythm, and Gabon, who were missing their captain and striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, gained composure and control of the game.
Still, neither team was able to carve out space or to create any real threat.
After the interval, Jim Allevinah scored the equaliser after evading his markers to meet a low cross from Denis Bouanga in the 54th minute.
The Pharaohs then returned to the front foot, especially after Mohamed Salah was introduced at the hour mark.
Afsha made an attempt that skimmed over the bar, Hegazi’s header was cleared from the goal line, and Salah kept their defenders on their toes with his darting runs and constant threat on the right flank.
Finally, the deserved winner came through, though in an unfancy way, as Afsha tried to set up Salah, but his through ball was deflected by Johann Obiang into his own net in the 75th minute.
Queiroz introduced defender Ahmed Yassin in the 80th minute instead of Ahmed Hegazi to mark his international debut.
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