AFCON 2019: Egypt 1-0 Zimbabwe: 5 Hits and Flops
Egypt has begun its bid for the eighth Africa Cup of Nations title with a hard-fought 1-0 win against a spirited Zimbabwe side.
The hosts made a rollicking start against the Warriors, forcing their keeper into a string of good saves.
Soon, Zimbabwe found their footing in the game and organised themselves into a compact defensive unit.
The Egyptians’ vibrancy in attack faded out after 20 minutes into the game- and they struggled to create clear cut chances against the opposing centre-back duo of Mudimu and Hadebe.
Not only did they defended well, but the Zimbabweans also had a lucid plan of counter-attacking from the wider areas.
The Egyptians had to be alert defensively to cut out the attacking threats of Ovidy Karuru and Nyasha Musekwi.
A moment of individual brilliance from Mohamed Trezeguet put Egypt ahead and the goal settled the home crowd which was becoming anxious.
The second half was all about killing the game by keeping the possession and being disciplined in their positions.
With much said and done, let’s look through some of the player’s individual outings in the AFCON’s opening fixture.
#1 Hit- Mahmoud Hassan
Mahmoud Hassan was lively throughout the game and kept the home supporters at the edge of their seats.
The fans’ moment of anxiety transformed into ecstasy as he scored the tournament’s first goal which won the game for Egypt.
Trezeguet linked well with his left-back partner Ayman Ashraf- using his quick feet to produce attractive one-touch passes and support Ashraf in his overlapping runs.
Hassan scored in the 41st minute with his determined run in towards the opposition box and a neat one-touch move with Egypt’s left-back landed the ball at his favoured right foot- and he unleashed a curved shot which found the net.
The 24-year-old also created fine passing moves with Mohamed Salah and Ali Said which maintained the Pharoah’s rhythm and tempo in constructing their attacks.
Mahmoud also tracked back to provide defensive cover for Ayman as the fullback was projected forward to support the offensive moves.
Overall, Trezeguet put in a complete performance for his national side and he got a hero’s farewell from the fans when he was substituted for Nabil Emad in the 81st minute.
#2 Flop- Marwan Mohsen
Marwan Mohsen was the biggest disappointment for the Egyptians in their opening fixture at Cairo.
The towering striker was deployed in the No.9 role by the coach Javier Aguirre to act as a focal point in the attack.
The 30-year-old was stagnant in his forward position and was unable to hold the ball in the final third.
The 30-year-old was not able to impose himself aerially too- getting dominated constantly by Zimbabwean centre-backs.
Mohsen might be a reason behind Salah’s lack of attacking output as he made zero runs in the penalty box to meet the diagonal passes or the crosses whipped in front of the goalkeeper.
Al-Haly striker’s insipid outing forced Aguirre to change his tactics as he was replaced by Walid Soliman and Salah was deployed as a striker.
Marwan’s immobile performance against a weaker Zimbabwe side might have put his starting spot in jeopardy.
#3 Hit- Ahmed Hegazi
Ahmed Hegazi was Egypt’s best player alongside his central defensive partner Mahmoud Alaa. The West Brom man’s combative presence was crucial in nullifying the Zimbabwean attacks.
Zimbabwe’s major plan was to defend deep and ship out long ball towards their forwards Karuru and Mushekwi. Hegazi used his towering stature to win the aerial duels on a consistent basis.
The 28-year-old also helped his team in building up their attacking moves and made a few immaculate passes which penetrated through the lines. Ahmed injured his nose towards the end of the first-half, but continued to play for his national side.
In the second half, Zimbabwe used the wider areas to stretch Egypt and launched crosses in the box. Alaa and Hegazi were alert to the situation and made some crucial clearances to keep the Warriors at bay.
Hegazi’s solid presence in the right side gave Ahmed Elmohamady to bombard from the full-back spot allowing Salah to operate as an inside forward.
#4 Flop- Mohamed Salah
It is quite harsh to label Mohamed Salah’s lively performance as a flop- probably being the victim of his own success.
The Egyptian started the game in a vibrant fashion which got the 80,000 supporters buzzing off their seats. He forced the opposing keeper into numerous saves and clearances during the starting period as he won the corner in the second minute.
After a spell of 20-25 minutes, the Zimbabwe team settled into a solid formation and provided very little space to work with. Salah’s mazy run which included a series of intricate passes was the only highlight of his game which forced Sibanda to make a remarkable save.
Mohamed Salah looked tired in the second half- probably because of the hot weather and a tiring club season for Liverpool. His passes lacked the energy and his final decisions suffered because of it.
#5 Hit: Edmore Sibanda
Edmore Sibanda was the sole reason for Zimbabwe staying in the game after Egypt’s relentless attacking phase in the starting 20 minutes. The 35-year-old made a brave clearance off Salah’s cross by punching it away from the penalty area.
Sibanda made a stunning save to deny Ali Said from scoring in the eighth minute after a neat passing move initiated by Mohammed Salah.
The Witbank Spurs goalie was quick to sniff out the danger and charged from his lines to clear the through balls projected towards his side of the goal.
Despite his best efforts, Edmore was unable to stop Trezeguet’s well-placed shot- the only goal scored in the match.
The veteran shot-stopper collided with Marwan Mohsen and injured his right foot. He carried on playing and produced another remarkable save to deny Salah.
It was a pity that Sibanda couldn’t play the full ninety minutes as he succumbed to his injury and got substituted in the 79th minute.