Egypt forward Mohamed Salah scored his first goal of this year’s Africa Cup of Nations to help the hosts to a 2-0 win over Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday which guaranteed them a place in the round of 16, Reuters reports.
Ahmed Elmohamady broke the deadlock in the 25th minute, turning the ball in following a corner, before Salah netted a clinically-taken goal two minutes before halftime, sparking delirious celebrations at the Cairo International Stadium.
The result was harsh on the Congolese who twice hit the crossbar in the first half and spent most of the second on the attack in the Egyptian half.
Egypt, with six points from two games, guaranteed a top-two finish in Group A while Congo, who have no points, must beat Zimbabwe in their final match to have any chance of going through as one of the best third-placed teams.
“I want to congratulate our opponents, who played a good match, they played very well, created chances, I think in the second half they were better than us,” said Egypt coach Javier Aguirre.
“We scored two, we could have scored a couple more, we have six points.”
The match was played in stifling heat and even at halftime, at 2300 local time, it was still 29 degrees Celsius.
The Congolese made a bright start as Tresor Mputu’s free-kick was flicked on by Jonathan Bolingi and Marcel Tisserand touched it onto the crossbar.
They also shut out the hosts but, just as Egypt seemed to be running out of ideas, they went ahead from a set-piece.
A corner was taken short to Salah and he sent an inviting cross into the area. Elmohamady and Christian Luyindula both went for it and it rebounded for Elmohamady to turn into the net.
Congo hit the woodwork again as Bolingi outjumped his marker, only to see leader bounce off the crossbar.
Throughout all this, Salah looked as if he was in for a frustrating night after his disappointing evening in the 1-0 win over Zimbabwe.
The Egyptian icon had an early chance when he was given a clear run on goal but Tisserand managed to get a foot to his shot and deflected it wide.
Shortly after Egypt’s first goal, Salah had a free kick brilliantly saved by Ley Matampi but his frustration ended two minutes before halftime.
Mahmoud Trezeguet charged out of defence and released Salah who cut inside a defender and planted the ball in the net.
Congo dominated the second half and were again unlucky not to score their first goal of the tournament. Bolingi had a header brilliantly saved by Mohamed El Shenawy and Yannick Bolasie sent a free kick centimetres wide of the post.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t score but we hit the bar twice and had other chances,” said Democratic Republic of Congo coach Florent Ibenge. “I feel bad for the players.”