Story: Kwame Asare Boadu, Kumasi
EGYPT set a cracking pace in their championship defence when they powered home to a 4-2 victory over Cameroun in a Group C opener at the Baba Yara Stadium last night.
Ismaily striker Hosni Abdrabou Abdel Motaleb and striking partner Abdallah Mohammed Zidan each fetched a brace in a match that brought the best out of the Pharoahs.
They were solid and composed at the back, fluid in the middle and ferocious in attack, and put the Camerounians in a tight corner in their resolve to qualify from the group.
Shattered by the defeat, Cameroun coach Otto Pfister could hardly explain what happened, indicating only that they did their best but that was not enough.
The Pharoahs showed early signs of carrying the day in just under one minute when Zidan tore through the defence but lost his composure within shooting range.
With F/C Barcelona striker Samuel Eto’o completely eclipsed by Hassan Zakry and Abdou Ibrahim, and the Camerounian midfield failing to accelerate, the Pharoahs switched into full gear and found the net in the 13th minute through a spot kick converted by Motaleb. Camerounian defender Andre Amougou Bikey handled the ball under pressure and Motaleb swerved Carlos Idris Kameni in post for the Indomitable Lions.
The Indomitable Lions attempted to hit back quickly but were caught off guard with a quick break which saw Hamburg F/C attacker Zidan finishing off brilliantly past advancing Kameni after 15 minutes.
Midfield action was fiercely fought, and when it mattered most the Pharoahs switched attack to the right where Fathy Abdel Ibrahim proved so swift for his opponents.
The Pharoahs’ ability to withstand the Lions’ threat was always evident, and before Gambian referee Sowie Modou would end proceedings for the first session, Zidan set the stadium alight with a cracking left footer from some 30-yards which whistled past a sprawling Kameni for the third goal.
It was a goal that set the Camerounians wondering about their predicament. As they walked off the field for the break, they kept their heads down.
They tried to assert their authority on the game after recess. Coach Otto Pfister sent on Emana Achille for Makoun Jean II who teamed up with Eto’o to put some pressure on the Egyptians.
Five minutes into the second half, Eto’o pulled one back for the Lions when he soared above everybody to power a header to a cross from Geremi Njitap. The Lions attempted to roar again, firing salvos of shots at goal but they missed.
Egypt brought on Al-Ahly striker Mohamed Abouterika for Hasan Zakry Mansour and he announced his presence combining perfectly with Moteleb on the left.
When Eto’o extricated himself from the close marking at the Egyptian rear, he nearly found his second of the day but his shot from just outside the box flew closely off the right post.
With just five minutes to go, the Pharoahs put their victory beyond doubt, scoring the fourth goal through Moteleb. The striker went into space in the middle and released a piercing shot which flew into the roof of the net.
The die was cast for the Indomitable Lions but they managed to add one more goal through Eto’o from the spot very late in the game.