Web Stories Tuesday, February 27

When Mohammed Kudus put Ghana ahead with a superb strike and Egypt’s Mohamed Salah limped off injured just before halftime in Thursday’s Africa Cup of Nations clash in Abidjan the Egyptian fans feared the worst.

A second-half turnaround did not appear on the cards but the North African side made light of Salah’s absence to come from behind twice and earn an exciting 2-2 Group B draw that keeps alive their chances of reaching the last 16. 

Liverpool forward Salah cut an isolated figure up front in the first half, with Egypt unable to muster any meaningful efforts on goal in a lethargic display. 

However, in Salah’s absence, they came out showing renewed zeal after the break, with Eintracht Frankfurt winger Omar Marmoush stealing the show, and Mostafa Fathi, who replaced Salah, adding much-needed pace on the right.  

The notable second-half improvement prompted some fans to suggest Egypt had been liberated when Salah went off, though Marmoush did not quite agree.

“We showed spirit and character (in the second half). It doesn’t matter who is absent, who makes an assist or who is the star of the game,” he told beIN Sports when asked about the impact of Salah’s injury.

“The most important thing is that we play and win as a team.”

‘AMAZING PLAYER’  

Second in Egypt’s all-time scorers list with 53 goals, Salah has shouldered the team’s hopes of winning their first Cup of Nations since they lifted the last of their record seven titles in 2010. 

Despite his goalscoring record, Salah is occasionally criticised for failing to reproduce his club form with the national team.

The 31-year-old is still looking for a maiden trophy with Egypt, having gone close when they lost in the 2017 and 2021 continental deciders.

Coach Rui Vitoria leapt to the forward’s defence following the draw with Ghana, saying the second-half revival was simply down to his halftime team talk. 

“Salah is an amazing player, one of the best in the world. We want to have this kind of player with us always. In the past, he already helped a lot and he will also help a lot in the future,” the Portuguese coach told reporters. 

“In the second half, we started to talk with the players … the players were upset, but OK, this is football, let’s go and fight in the second half.

“We went for the game with a positive energy, not because of Salah, it’s because the (scoreline) was not good.” 

Egypt, who have two points from as many games, face Group B leaders Cape Verde in their final pool game on Monday, with the severity of Salah’s injury not yet known.

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