Egypt maintain perfect World Cup qualifying run with 4-2 win
Egypt, the only team in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers to bag maximum points from their respective games, maintained their perfect run with a 4-2 victory over 10-man Guinea in their final Group G match on Tuesday.
The Pharaohs trailed to an early goal in the Red Sea resort of Gouna following a bizarre own goal from England-based defender Adam El-Abd but roared back in style to tear Guinea to shreds despite their defensive frailties.
Skipper Hossam Ghaly, back to international fold after a lengthy absence through injury, drew Egypt level with a fine goal seven minutes before the break and talismanic playmaker Mohamed Abou-Treika put them ahead after converting a second-half penalty awarded for a handball on Kamil Zayatte, who received a straight red card.
Ahly's Abou-Treika was effectively making his 100th international appearance, although two of those were not recognized as official games by world governing body FIFA. His official international caps now stand at 98.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, a resilient Guinea side continued to expose the gaps in Egypt's fragile backline, restoring parity in the 57th minute when Seydouba Soumah made the most of some sloppy defending from El-Abd to notch home.
However, Basel winger Mohamed Salah continued his blistering run after scoring Egypt's third on 83 minutes and second-half substitute Amr Zaki, a forgotten striker who made his last international appearance in November last year, put the icing on the cake four minutes later.
Egypt, who had already qualified for the final phase before facing Guinea, collected maximum 18 points from six matches, signaling their intent to end a lengthy World Cup absence, having last qualified for the football's most prestigious event in 1990.
The Pharaohs will learn their fate when the draw for the final two-legged encounters takes place on 16 September in Cairo.
Egypt's makeshift defence struggled to cope with Guinea's early pressure that resulted in a fourth-minute opener.
Brighton defender El-Abd, who made a rare start, diverted a tame effort into his own net while trying to clear the ball in front of goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy, thanks in part to the scarcity of grass on a poor pitch.
Egypt had the better possession after falling behind but still struggled to muster genuine goal-scoring opportunities.
Winger Mahmoud Abdel-Razek 'Shikabala', a left-footed player, had to cut inside every time he received the ball on the right flank, making it easier for Guinea's midfield and backline to predict his moves and steal possession.
Ahmed Eid was sluggish on the other flank and Mohamed Salah was repeatedly flagged for offside as Bob Bradley's largely experimental line-up hardly proved its worth.
Ghaly, who joined Belgium's Lierse in the summer, netted Egypt's equalizer on 38 minutes when he capitalised on a poor back-header from a Guinean defender to flick the ball over his challenger and superbly send a volley into the bottom corner
Egypt were awarded a penalty six minutes after the restart when Guinea's keeper Naby Yattara missed a cross and Salah's goal-bound shot was blocked by the hand of Zayatte, who was given his marching orders.
Abou-Treika found the bottom corner with a low spot-kick after Yattara got a hand to it but Egypt's celebrations were short-lived.
Guinea were still dangerous on the break despite playing with 10 men, with their pace causing constant menace to Egypt's defence. Their counter-attacking efforts paid dividends in the 57th minute when Soumah outpaced El-Abd to latch onto a through ball and calmly drill the ball past Ekramy.
The hosts then laid siege to Guinea's area, creating several goal-scoring opportunities. They were also revitalized following the introduction of Zaki and youngster Mahmoud Kahraba, who recently joined Swiss side Luzern.
Egypt restored their lead in the 83rd minute when Salah, Egypt's undisputed star in their World Cup qualifying run, found Abou-Treika and swiftly moved to receive a delightful, back-heel return pass.
He rounded Yattara and slotted into an empty net to take his tally to six goals in as many matches in the qualifiers.
Kuwait-based striker Zaki, who has not scored since finding the net in a crucial qualifier at home to Algeria in 2009, completed the rout with three minutes remaining.
A clever dummy by Zaki allowed him to evade his marker and break clear, collecting a neat pass from Abou-Treika. A Guinean defender made a desperate attempt to clear the danger but ended up looping it into his own net.