Egypt’s AFCON hopes dashed in loss to Senegal
Egypt continues to make history in all the wrong ways during its 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign, as it lost its crunch showdown with Senegal 1-0 in Cairo on Saturday.
An early mistake from goalkeeper Ahmed El-Shennawy was the difference, as his failure to punch-clear on a high free kick handed Senegal’s Mame Diouf an easy headed goal on seven minutes.
Egypt XI: Ahmed El-Shennawy (Mohamed Sobhy); Sabry Rahil, Ali Gabr, Mohamed Naguib, Ahmed Fathi; Ibrahim Salah (Hazem Emam), Mohamed El-Nenny (Arafa El-Sayed), Mahmoud Trezeguet; Mohamed Salah, Walid Soliman, Emad Meteb.
Senegal XI: Bouna Coundoul; Papy Mison Djilobodji, Cheikhou Kouyaté, Serigne Mbodji; Pape Souaré, Idrissa Gueye, Diop (Alfred N’Diaye), Stéphane Badji; Sadio Mané, Mame Biram Diouf (Diafra Sakho), Dame N’Doye.
El-Shennawy asked to be replaced following the mild collision that resulted in the opening score, though the nature of the injury wasn’t clear on replay.
Manager Shawky Gharib acquiesced to the Zamalek net-minder’s request, bringing on Smouha goalkeeper Mohamed Sobhy in his stead.
The Pharaohs had no real answer for Senegal’s organized, physical counter-attack.
Egypt’s first shot on goal didn’t come until the 23rd minute, a weak attempt from Salah that landed straight into Senegal goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul’s arms. Salah found himself with a half-chance ten minutes earlier, latching onto a through-ball but failing to pull the trigger.
Egypt did have a number of set-piece opportunities, but its execution was poor. Free-kick shots were routinely off target and corner-kick crosses regularly found Coundoul, if not the heads of Senegalese defenders.
It was the Terenga Lions that came closest to netting the game’s second goal, with Mame Diouf’s 45th minute, curling right footer smashing off the crossbar with Sobhy beaten.
Things didn’t improve for Egypt in the second half. Despite Senegal’s willingness to sit back and defend its advantage, the seven-time African champions had trouble mustering even the most meager of scoring opportunities.
Gharib, whose substitution options were limited by El-Shennawy’s peculiar exit, was unable to turn to the tide with his tactical and personnel changes.
Hoping to inject life into a dead attack, he introduced domestic top-scorer Arafa El-Sayed into the fold on 56 minutes, in place of FC Basel starlet Mohamed El-Nenny.
The El-Gaish striker did almost make his presence felt at the death, pushing a 93rd-minute header wide inside the six-yard box with Senegalese defenders draped over him.
The result was enough to see Senegal through to next year’s finals in Equatorial Guinea and leaves Egypt all but out of contention.
In order to avoid missing its third consecutive Africa Cup of Nations, Egypt must beat upstart Tunisia in Monastir on Wednesday and hope both Guinea (home against Uganda) and Congo (away against Sudan) fail to win their final matches. Tunisia has already clinched a spot in the finals.
The defeat also marked the first time Egypt has ever lost two home matches in a single qualifying campaign (including World Cup and AFCON) dating back to 1934.