Ronaldo shows Egypt defenders have no head for heights
Hatem Maher , Saturday 24 Mar 2018

Looking composed against Portugal, Egypt were on the brink of securing a famous friendly win over the European champions, only to be undone by two Cristiano Ronaldo goals that once again exposed their struggles with aerial threats.

A Mohamed Salah goal 11 minutes into the second half put Egypt in command against a toothless Portugal side who had found it hard to create goal-scoring chances until stoppage time in Zurich on Friday.

With the clock ticking down, Real Madrid ace Ronaldo leapt over the defence on two occasions to score a last-gasp double with two headers and turn the match on its head, depriving Egypt of a remarkable win.

A left-wing cross from substitute Ricardo Quaresma eluded the otherwise impressive Ahmed Hegazi and found Ronaldo unmarked to head home from close. Just before the final whistle, Ronaldo beat Hegazi's central defensive partner Ali Gabr to a free-kick to power another header home.

Hegazi and Gabr, both more than 1.9 meters tall, were largely solid until Ronaldo's late salvo, comfortably dealing with long balls. However, as often under coach Hector Cuper, they lost concentration when it mattered most.

The Pharaohs looked close to winning the African Cup of Nations a year ago when they took a 1-0 first-half lead over Cameroon but paid the price of similarly slack defending when Nicolas Nkoulou leapt between two challengers to head home a cross and level the score in the second period. The Indomitable Lions then netted a late goal to secure the title.

"The defeat against Portugal was painful because it came in the dying minutes. Portugal were only dangerous in crosses; otherwise our defence was not really troubled," former Egypt playmaker Hazem Emam said on ONSport television channel after the game.

"Hegazi and Gabr played a great game, but our positioning in defence in the latter stages was a negative point."

Out of the 20 goals Egypt shipped under Cuper, 11 came from crosses from open play or dead-ball situations.

The canny Argentinean boss will be aware he needs to improve that aspect in the next four friendly games before Egypt head to Russia to make their first World Cup appearance in 28 years.

Egypt open their World Cup campaign on 15 June against South American powerhouses Uruguay, who boast Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez - two world class strikers whose aerial prowess is unmatched.

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