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VIDEO: Egypt revives AFCON 2015 qualification hopes with convincing win in Botswana
Egypt revived their AFCON 2015 qualifying hopes as Shawky Gharib’s Pharaohs earned their first three points in Group G with a 2-0 win in Gaborone.
After much criticism over manager Shawky Gharib’s player selections in recent games, convincing selections and the choice to play a three-man pivot paid off as Egypt put behind the memory of dismal performances versus Senegal and Tunisia to convincingly beat Botswana 2-0.
Egypt XI: Ahmed El-Shennawy, Saad Samir, Mohamed Naguib, Ahmed Fathi, Mohamed Abdel-Shafy, Ibrahim Salah, Mohamed El-Nenny (90+2’ Ibrahim Abdel-Khalek), Amr El-Sulaya, Walid Soliman (69’ Ayman Hefny), Mohamed Salah, Amr Gamal (81’ Khaled Kamar).
Unused subs: Amir Abdel-Hamid, Ali Gabr, Hossam Ghaly, Ahmed Hamoudi.
Out of the squad: Mohamed Sobhy, Shawky El-Said, Sabry Rahil, Saleh Gomaa.
Botswana XI: Kabelo Dembe, Obonye Moswate, Edwin Olerile, Oscar Ncenga, Boitumelo Mafoko, Moshe Gaolaolwe, Joel Mogorosi, Mogakolodi Ngele, Jerome Ramatlhakwane, Segolame Boy, Lemponye Tshireletso.
Despite a bouncy pitch, Egypt looked determined from the start to play passes on the ground and dictate the play in a refreshing change from recent games as they searched for their first win in the 2015 African Cup of Nations qualifications.
The Pharaohs won three corners in the first nine minutes and six halfway through the first-half. But poor execution led to no danger on Botswana’s goal from set-pieces. Still, the Pharaohs were energetic and looked to fight for every ball, and the excellent three-man pivot of Ibrahim Salah, El-Sulaya and El-Nenny gave Egypt control of midfield.
It was not until the 12th minute that Botswana made their first foray into Egypt’s half of the pitch with a string of passes that was cut short by Ibrahim Salah.
It was in-form Ibrahim Salah who again dispossessed Botswana five minutes later, starting a fine attack that led to Egypt’s first shot on goal by Al Ahly forward Amr Gamal, though his finish was way off target.
At the half-hour mark, Chelsea player Mohamed Salah brilliantly cut inside from the right wing where he had finally found space and attempted a good shot, which was saved by Botswana’s keeper Dembe.
A minute before the break, Walid Soliman could have put Salah through 1-on-1 on goal but decided to shoot instead, his effort going straight into the goalkeeper’s hands. The teams remained scoreless at half time, with Egypt enjoying the lion’s share of possession.
In the second-half, the Egyptians continued to both win and waste corners, and they also tried their luck with a few shots from distance. It was one of these shots – an outstanding effort from El-Nenny (a player Mido had criticized as not being of the national team calibre) – which broke the deadlock, and Egypt was ahead in the 56th minute.
Two minutes later, Egypt stopper El-Shennawy, who had nothing to do in the first-half, jumped forward well to catch Botswana’s first shot on goal in the game.
But it was Egypt who increased their advantage in the 62nd minute as Mohamed Salah combined with Amr Gamal on the edge of the box to fire a precise shot to the right of Dembe, making the score 2-0. It was Salah’s 19th international goal.
Botswana got more adventurous but could not create much. In the 69th minute, Gharib awarded Egyptian League talent and long-overlooked Ayman Hefny his first ever national team cap. He put in a good shift and managed a backwards kick four minutes after coming on which was cleared off the line by a Botswana defender.
Egypt continued to create chances, but at the other end of the pitch, El-Shennawy was to blame for a late scare as he came off his line and missed the ball, but nothing came of it. He redeemed himself minutes later with a brilliant save from a Botswana corner.
Salah got adventurous with two minutes remaining when he was put into space by Shennawy and got past 2 defenders in the same way he did in Zimbabwe 16 months ago but this time his final ball went amiss.
Egypt now has three points and will now be looking to build on their renewed confidence and strong performance when they play Botswana again in Cairo in five-days time.