A spectacularly taken free kick by former Chelsea FC attacker Mohamed Salah in the 10th minute ensured that record African champions Egypt beat Ghana to top Group D in the ongoing Cup of Nations.
It was the final group games of the tournament on Wednesday with Ghana already guaranteed a place in the Last 8. With Uganda out, the final slot was between Mali and Egypt.
The Pharaohs, who have won the tournament three times more than the Black Stars, needed a win to leapfrog their opponents to top the group and at least a draw to advance.
With an even run of play in the first few minutes, a goal would only come from lapse in concentration.
And that is exactly what happened in the 10th minute after Jonathan Mensah, playing for the first time in the tournament, was dispossessed of the ball by Abdallah Said.
A body check by John Boye resulted in referee Bakary Gassama whistling for an infringement just behind the penalty box against the Turkey-based defender.
AS Roma’s Salah stepped up to take the free kick and, in superb style, found a space in the Ghanaian wall to beat Razak Brimah, who was rooted in his post.
The half ended 1-0 with Asamoah Gyan picking a suspected groin injury,to add to the woes of Ghana.
Both sides could not get space to score in the second half as efforts by Jordan Ayew and Christian Atsu were saved by veteran goalie Essam El-Hadary.
Stars’ coach Avram Grant threw in Bernard Tekpetey and Mubarak Wakaso but it was too little too late.
Hector Cuper’s men also made a few incursions but could not extend their lead.
By the loss, the Stars place second in Group D.
They will, as a result, play Group C winners DR Congo in the third quarter-final match on Sunday.
Egypt play Morocoo too on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Mali and Uganda found their scoring boots as they drew 1-1 at Stade d’Oyem in Oyem, Gabon.
That results made no difference in the group as both the Eagles and the Cranes head home.
Group D Final Standing:
[league_table id=”39907″ title=”” number=”5″ columns=”p,w,d,l,gd,pts” show_team_logo=”0″ show_full_table_link=”0″ align=”none”]
By Emmanuel Kwame Amoh|3news.com|Ghana