AFCON 2017: Pharaohs send Uganda's Cranes flying

AFCON 2017: Pharaohs send Uganda's Cranes flying
After a hard-fought match that saw more caution than action, Egypt broke Uganda's hearts with a late goal by Abdallah El-Said.
3 min read
22 Jan, 2017
El-Said saved the game with his late goal [AFP]

Africa Cup of Nations Group D played its second matchday Saturday afternoon, and after the disappointing draw with Mali at the first match, Egypt’s national team took on Uganda in the Port Gentil Stadium, in Gabon.

The match started with both teams playing cautiously, as they were afraid to make mistakes. It took Egypt around fifteen minutes to pose a threat to the African goalkeeper of the year, Denis Onyango.

On the 20th minute Mohamed Salah almost struck a beautiful goal after a good attack by the Egyptians, but Uganda’s Murshid Jjuuko was right in place to stop him. Five minutes later he almost caught Onyango unprepared with a stylish chip, but the ball went out.

Half an hour into the match, the Ugandans stood and committed smart fouls and aggressive tricks to get the Pharaohs out of the game. On the 27th minute the Cranes almost surprised veteran goalie Essam Al-Hadary with a long ball, but El-Nenny cleared in the last moment.

As the game progressed, Uganda’s confidence grew, while Egypt kept looking ineffective, unfocused and unsynchronized, especially in attack.

Both teams tried to break the deadlock, but again, the pitch conditions in Port Gentil Stadium were definitely not optimal, which harmed the level of the play.

Ramadan Sobhi worked his magic on the left side, trying to create good chances for his teammates, but the Ugandan defenders were focused at every try.

As the second half kicked off, Egypt seemed more determined but wasn’t accurate enough. Uganda’s Ochaya scored a nice goal in a great counter attack, but the referee called for offside, and it was cancelled.

Uganda had two more dangerous chances, but again, Al-Hadary stopped them one after the other.

The 44 years old goalie was very focused every time a threatening ball came in his direction. His forward teammates on the other hand almost scored after a great run by Sobhi, but Abdallah Al-Said sent it way wide.

A few minutes later Mahmoud Trezeguet tried to beat Onyango, but despite being injured, the Ugandan keeper was in place and kept the danger away.

Around the 75th minute mark, The Cranes pressured Egypt in their own half and made The Pharaohs look very fragile. A chance after another, there was a sense of surprise in the air – maybe the Ugandans can make it.

Uganda were fighting and playing well. Juuko stopped the attempts of Trezeguet and substitute Amr Warda.  

The shift for Egypt came when Mahmoud Kahraba replaced Trezeguet on the 79th minute. Kahraba, who’s having a terrific season in Ittihad Jeddah, was very active and creative in attack and set up a couple of chances for his teammates. One of these, ended up being the most important moment of the match.

On the 89th minute Egypt went to a counter attack. Kahraba brilliantly found Salah, who tricked his defender and left the ball right for Abdallah El-Said, who fired in one touch into the back of the net from a close range. Onyango couldn’t save and the Egyptians ran around in ecstasy –Egypt 1, Uganda 0. Game over.

Uganda are the first team to be eliminated from 2017 AFCON, while Egypt will hope for a positive result against the already qualified Ghana, on Wednesday.  With the recent history between the two nations in football, and the fact that the loser will probably play powerful Senegal in the quarters - expect a real African fight.

Uri Levy runs the popular football blog BabaGol, which covers football and politics focusing on the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter, and read his blog here