Africa’s newly crowned champions fell to a 1-0 first leg defeat at the hands of the side they beat in last month’s Africa Cup of Nations final
Saliou Ciss’s early own goal proved to be the difference between Egypt and Senegal as the Pharaohs defeated the newly crowned African champions 1-0 in the first leg of their World Cup playoff in Cairo on Friday.
Less than two months after the two sides collided in the Africa Cup of Nations final—where Senegal won their first ever title 4-2 on penalties—the North Africans took the advantage in this double-header on the road to Qatar.
Ciss’s goal settled the match in Egypt’s favour in the fourth minute, although he knew precious little about it, as Mohamed Salah’s close-range shot rebounded off the crossbar and bounced in across the line off the hapless full-back as he tracked back.
Despite the victory, Egypt’s play in front of their own fans was functional and conservative as they predominantly sought to preserve their lead and neutralise Senegal.
The Lions, for their part, struggled to overcome their early setback and failed to raise the tempo when faced with the Pharaohs’ spoiling and frequent disruption of the rhythm.
Sadio Mane—crowned Player of the Tournament at the Nations Cup—was the most persistent threat to Egypt’s lead, but while he tormented the hosts’ backline with his frequent forays down the left flank, Senegal lacked both the cutting edge and the finishing touch to level the affair.
Early in the second half, Mane forged a fine opening only for Famara Diedhiou to fluff his lines, while an early injury to centre-back Abdou Diallo—who was replaced by Pape Abou Cisse—will give Aliou Cisse cause for concern ahead of the second leg.
12 minutes from time, Senegal were presented with a fine chance to equalise when the ball broke kindly in the box from a set piece, only for Egypt stopper Mohamed El Shenawy—selected ahead of Afcon Goalkeeper of the Tournament Gabaski—to make a fine block from close range.