Egypt sink Ghana to go top of World Cup qualifying group
Egypt next face Uganda in two home and away matches next year
Two goals from Mohamed Salah and Abdallah El-Said gave Egypt a precious 2-0 home win over Ghana to help the Pharaohs make a significant stride in their bid to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1990.
With their deadly counter attacking abilities on full display in a sold-out clash at Alexandria's 86,000-seat Borg El-Arab Stadium, AS Roma winger Salah converted a penalty and Ahly playmaker El-Said finished off a breakaway in the dying minutes of both halves to lead Egypt to a second win in as many Group E games.
Wild joy scenes erupted following the final whistle after Egypt went five points clear of main challengers Ghana, avenging a painful 7-3 aggregate defeat that included a 6-1 first-leg humiliation in Kumasi in a World Cup qualifying playoff in 2013.
Egypt lead the group with six points, two clear of Uganda who defeated pointiless Congo 1-0 on Saturday.
Ghana are third on a solitary point as their hopes of making a fourth successive World Cup appearance are hanging by a thread.
Egypt next face Uganda in two home and away matches next year.
Egypt coach Hector Cuper made minimal changes to his usual starting line-up, with Ahly's Ahmed Hegazy regaining his place in the heart of defence after recovering from injury and his club teammate Ahmed Fathi replacing Basel's Omar Gaber as a right-back.
Both men proved rock solid as Egypt sat back in the first half to soak up pressure from Ghana, who dominated possession but could not create clear-cut chances.
Age-defying goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary, who at 43 is still Egypt's number one keeper, palmed away a free-kick from Wakaso Mubarak on 20 minutes and Jordan Ayew sent an angled low shot just wide from the edge of the area four minutes later.
Egypt's solitary chance fell to Salah when he was picked out by a neat chip from playmaker El-Said but his close-range weak effort was thwarted by keeper Razak Brimah.
In a rare foray forward shortly before the break, Belgium-based winger Mahmoud Trezeguet slalomed past two defenders on the left before being tripped by Harrison Afful just inside the area, with the referee immediately pointing to the spot.
Salah fired straight down the middle as Brimah dived to his left, sparking jubilant scenes at the Middle East's biggest stadium.
Ghana eased off after the break but Egypt remained cautious in a typical manner under Cuper, who is credited for improving the defensive aspects of a side which had for many years shipped costly soft goals.
But the Black Stars almost equalised on 55 minutes when Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu rose unmarked to send a free header just wide and El-Hadary was on alert to pull off an impressive save eight minutes later, tipping over the crossbar a piledriver from Christian Atsu at his near post.
But Egypt eased their nerves with a vital goal four minutes from time after a counter attack orchestrated by Stoke City winger Ramadan Sobhi, whose physical presence kept Ghana's deep-lying forwards in check.
Sobhi bamboozled his challenger with his neat footwork before sending in a low cross. Salah's attempt to control it saw the ball slip into the path of El-Said, who swiveled and hit a low shot into the bottom corner to end the match as a contest.