Hatem Maher , Thursday 9 Jun 2022
An out-of-sorts Egypt side slumped to a shock 2-0 loss to Ethiopia in Malawi after being utterly outplayed as they failed to maintain a winning start to their African Nations Cup qualifying campaign on Thursday.
First-half goals from Dawa Hotessa and Shemeles Bekele, who plays for Egyptian side Gouna, condemned the Pharaohs to a bitter defeat in only Ehab Galal’s second match in charge.
It also marked Ethiopia’s first win over Egypt in 33 years, and their third overall.
The manner in which Egypt lost will increase pressure on former Pyramids FC and Zamalek coach Galal, whose appointment in April was met with doubts from pundits and fans alike, given his unimpressive track record compared with his predecessor, veteran Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz.
Egypt kicked off their Group D campaign with a 1-0 home win over Guinea last Sunday, but they were also unconvincing despite the presence of Liverpool talisman Mohamed Salah, who Galal said had played through the pain barrier due to a minor injury.
But with Salah out of the Ethiopia clash and Egypt also missing several other regulars, especially in defence, they looked porous at the back and toothless upfront as Ethiopia took a firm grip on the game from the outset.
Egypt failed to muster a single effort on target in a disastrous first half and created their only real chance with two minutes remaining.
All four teams in the group — Egypt, Ethiopia, Guinea and Malawi — are tied on three points after two rounds. The top two sides will advance to next year’s African Nations Cup finals in Cote d’Ivoire.
Ethiopia’s daring approach was vindicated as they left Egypt players chasing shadows for much of the game, with their swift game exposing the Pharaohs’ defensive frailties.
It took Ethiopia, who were technically the hosts, 21 minutes to open the scoring.
Abubeker Nassir dribbled past central defender Mahmoud Alaa and left him on the ground to jink into the area and cross low for Hotessa, who slid the ball past poorly-positioned keeper Mohamed Abou-Gabal despite being under pressure from right-back Omar Gaber.
Nassir was unlucky not to turn from provider to scorer three minutes later when he broke clear from almost the halfway line after outpacing Alaa’s defensive partner and Zamalek teammate Mahmoud El-Wensh, only to see his low shot come back off the far post.
Ethiopia continued to toy with a disjointed Egypt side, with Nassir having a goal disallowed for offside before Bekele deservedly extended their lead in the 39th minute.
Some awful defending cost Egypt again, with Bekele ghosting past El-Wensh to run onto a threaded pass behind the defence and lash the ball into the roof of the net from a tight angle, with Alaa too late to close him down.
Abou-Gabal was on hand to thwart Hotessa in a one-on-one on the stroke of halftime, sparing the blushes of Egypt who had an entire half to find their feet.
The first half was so terrible that Galal made three substitutions before the break, introducing midfielder Mohanad Lasheen, full-back Omar Kamal and winger Ibrahim Adel.
But the Nations Cup runners-up failed to even step up a gear, although Ethiopia eased off after the restart.
Egypt’s only meaningful chance fell to Kamal, deployed as a left-back, on 88 minutes.
A rare fine move saw fellow substitute Ahmed Atef chest a long ball on the edge of the area and lay it off for Kamal, whose curling effort narrowly missed the target.
But that was as good as it got for a lackluster Egypt side, who will need to find answers to their array of problems sooner rather than later.