Mohamed Salah and Naby Keita’s showdown didn’t go as anticipated, as Egypt’s Mostafa Mohamed stole the show with a late winner as Egypt defeated Guinea 1-0 in 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers on Sunday.
Mohamed Salah and Keita, Liverpool colleagues and national team leaders, were inventive but failed to score in a Group D first-round match that lacked fireworks for the Cairo crowd.
In the 87th minute, Mohamed, a substitute for Turkish giants Galatasaray, broke the deadlock with a shot that Mouctar Diakhaby deflected beyond goalkeeper Ibrahima Kone.
After losing to Senegal in the Cup of Nations final last February and a World Cup play-off the following month, new Egypt coach Ehab Gabal promised a “different playing style.”
However, he had a forgettable debut, and the Pharaohs will be expected to perform even better when they face Ethiopia on Thursday before Salah enjoys a well-deserved vacation.
Malawi beat Ethiopia 2-1 in a 2023 Cup of Nations qualifier in the same group, with all three goals coming via penalties at Lilongwe.
The Flames led 2-0 at halftime thanks to spot kicks from Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango into the right corner and the middle of the net.
Ethiopia, on the other hand, sparked a frantic finale by reducing the score midway through the second half with Abubeker Nassir’s third penalty of the game.
Egypt is favored to win the group as they seek a record-extending ninth crown, with Guinea and Malawi vying for second place, so the stakes will be high when the two teams meet in Conakry on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar bound Ghana faced the Central African Republic in Group E, and despite playing in Angola due to a lack of an international-standard venue, the Central African Republic forced a 1-1 draw.
Ghana had anticipated that they would pick up three points at a neutral venue against competitors which are 27 places lower in the world rankings after thrashing Madagascar 3-0 on Wednesday.