Egypt beat Senegal 1-0 in Cairo to take a slight edge in their CAF qualification play-off for the 2022 World Cup.
The goal, Egypt’s first against Senegal in their last three meetings – a run stretching back to 2006 – was an own goal from Saliou Cissé. An unfortunate and unintentional strike from the left-back after some simultaneously good and bad work from Mohamed Salah.
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The goal came bright and early in the game, with Amr El Soleya picking the ball up about 35 yards from goal. Instantly he saw Mohamed Salah make the kind of run he makes all the time for Liverpool, peeling inside the full-back and ready to run behind the centre-back.
El Soleya weighted the pass to perfection as it soared over the head of the immaculate Kalidou Koulibaly and fell into Salah’s path. The Egyptian’s first touch wasn’t ideal and and left the ball behind him, but he adjusted to dig the shot out anyway.
Of course, Salah knew he was shooting at Edouard Mendy. A man he has failed to beat in over 240 minutes of cup action across the Africa Cup of Nations and EFL Cup finals.
So to make sure it went in, Salah put everything behind the shot. And, of course, that means he put too much behind the shot and instead of flying into the roof of the net the ball rattled off the bar. It was a very human error from a player who has been superhuman this season.
But of course, humans can always benefit from good fortune. And while his Africa Cup of Nations was blighted by bad luck, Salah had luck on his side in Cairo as his shot smashed off the crossbar down into Saliou Cissé and into the back of the net!
For the first time in Mohamed Salah's career, Egypt have beaten Senegal.
One game away from a place at the 2022 World Cup. ⏳ pic.twitter.com/RjHlCJxAg8
— Squawka (@Squawka) March 25, 2022
With a goal in the 4th minute of the match, it felt like the match could explode to life and be the kind of action-packed affair the Africa Cup of Nations final between these two sides wasn’t.
However the match moved into a predictable rhythm for fans of the Egypt national team under Carlos Quieroz. The Pharaohs settled into a deep defensive block, repelled and restricted Senegal, wasted time with stunning audacity, and then strung together a handful of counters, usually through the good work of Salah.
This wasn’t a vintage display from Salah, but the forward was brighter and bolder than his team-mates and opponents. He looked like someone trying to lead a team, which is to say sometimes he tried a bit too much. But he was still the decisive factor in a result that has left things beautifully in the balance ahead of next week’s second-leg.
Can Salah strike in Senegal to get his perfect revenge and send Egypt to the World Cup?