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VIDEO: Egypt shine in Gharib’s managing debut
The post-Bob Bradley era got off to a promising start for Egypt, as goals from Mohamed Nagy ‘Gedo’ and Mohamed Salah saw them past World Cup-bound Bosnia before a predominately pro-Bosnia crowd in Innsbruck, Austria.
It was new manager Shawky Gharib’s first match in charge of the Pharaohs, as he took over in the wake of Egypt’s World Cup qualifying failure at the final hurdle under Bradley.
Egypt was forced to play without the services of its Zamalek contingent due to the Cairo club’s CAF Champions League commitments.
It didn’t seem to matter however, as Egypt secured an unlikely win buoyed by a return to its traditional three-man central defense, which today featured Smouha’s Ahmed Said ‘Ouka’, Al-Ahly’s Rami Rabia, and Nacional de Maderia’s Ali Ghazal – perhaps the best player on the pitch today – manning the sweeper role.
Seeming to feed off of the energy of the partisan crowd, Bosnia controlled proceedings early on before Egypt settled in. By halftime Egypt had strung together some chances to move ahead, but some fine saves from goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy might have proven most vital in a scoreless first half.
Egypt was even more compact and organized in the second half, proving difficult for the Bosnians to break down. Desperate to appease its boisterous support, Bosnia continued to push forward, leading to Egypt’s breakthrough counter attack in the 52nd minute. Gedo found himself one-on-one with Bosnian defender Ognjen Vranješ and turned on the jets as he raced towards the edge of the penalty area. By the time the Bosnian keeper was off his line it was too late, as Gedo coolly finished in the opposite corner.
Salah doubled the lead 12 minutes later, taking advantage of a lapse in the Bosnian defense, which seemed to lose sight of his presence. The new Chelsea signing found himself alone with the keeper with the ball at his feet and made no mistake.
The Egyptian defense – which seemed more comfortable today in its more traditional formation than at any point during its latest 4-4-2 experiment under Bradley – remained alert and enthusiastic throughout, avoiding its occasional tendency to relax and allow teams back into the match.
Salah came close to a brace on 75 minutes with an electric run down the right flank that sent him clear with just the goalkeeper to beat. What seemed like a sure goal was not to be however, as Salah was dispossessed while deciding on his final move.
Bosnia nearly pulled one back on 90 minutes, but Manchester City forward Edin Džeko was denied by a vintage save from Essam El-Hadary, who came on to start the second half in his first action with the national team since falling out with Bradley.
Egypt’s next friendly is slated for May 25 when they’ll take on Portugal, another World Cup-bound team from Europe. It’ll be another neutral venue contest, this time in London.
Player ratings (out of 10) and analysis
Sherif Ekramy – 8 – Some important first-half saves to preserve the clean sheet. He showed poise and maturity against one of Europe’s highest-scoring sides in World Cup qualifying.
Ali Ghazal – 9 – Probably deserving of Man of the Match honors. As a defensive midfielder with centerback chops, his skillset is ideal for the sweeper role going forward. He looked calm and decisive throughout. His only hiccup was the yellow card he picked up, which was deserving. It’s only one match, but if ever there was a revelation in the context of an exhibition match for Egypt today, it was him.
Rami Rabia – 8 – Powerful in the air and deceptively fast on the ground, he came through in situations where Egypt’s more proven, but older centerbacks may not have had the legs to anymore.
Ahmed Ouka – 7 – It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to rate two Egyptian defenders highly in the same match, let alone three. Let’s hope this is the start of a new trend and not an abberation. Ouka can be indecisive and slightly panic-prone at times, but he’s worked to aleviate those issues and was solid today.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 6 – A decent display for the Hull City product, who’s back to his more comfortable role on the wing after spending the majority of his time at fullback during the Bradley regime.
Ahmed Fathi – 8 – Fathi was energetic and enthusiastic throughout. His match was highlighted by a crunching, but picture-perfect slide tackle to thwart a Bosnian attack down the wing late in the second half.
Mohamed El-Nenny – 7.5 – The seemingly forgotten FC Basel man put in a very respectable effort, solidifying his position as one of Gharib’s top choices in defensive midfield. He seemed to have better chemistry with Ghaly today than at times in the past and took what the defensive gave him instead of trying to force things.
Hossam Ghaly – 7 – Today’s team captain did a solid job manning the middle, helping transition play from defense to attack successfully. He suddenly finds himself as one of the more senior players on the team, having to take on a bigger leadership role with the recent retirements of Mohamed Aboutreika and Wael Gomaa. Gharib will undoubtedly rely on him to do more of the same going forward, just as he relied on him on his youth teams in the early 2000s.
Mohamed Salah – 8 – He gave the Bosnian defense fits all night, which he seems to do to every defense these days. His rating could have easily been a 9 or even 10 had he finished his spectacular second-half breakaway with a goal.
Khaled Kamar – 5.5 – The Ittihad El-Shorta frontman was largely average until he was subbed off late. He showed some flashes that would suggest he could contribute in the future, and is certainly an improvement over guys like Ahmed Temsah, who were given repeated chances in that same attacking role but failed miserably.
Mohamed Nagy ‘Gedo’ – 8 – The hero of Egypt’s last Africa Cup of Nations triumph is finding his form again, having scored for Al-Ahly in the CAF Super Cup and today with a world-class finish that required excellent pace and balance, and pin-point accuracy.
Shawky El-Said – 8 – His aggression, physicality and effort in the air were exceptional. Defensive performance is about attitude above all else, and he added a tenacity that Egypt may benefit from in the absence of Wael Gomaa. If nothing else, he provides some much-needed depth for a backline sorely lacking capable bodies at the international level.
Essam El-Hadary – 8 – He was close to not being rated after not being called into action for much of the second half, but he was finally asked to get involved and put in what can only be described as a typical El-Hadary performance, complete with a finger-tip, clean-sheet-preserving save on 90 minutes and trademark charismatic goal celebrations. He’ll be challening Ekramy as the starter between the pipes going forward.
Sample size was insufficient to fairly rate other participants.