Egypt needed a second-half penalty from Magdi Afsha to edge past a resilient Lebanon side 1-0 in their opening Group D game of the Fifa Arab Cup at Qatar’s Al Thumama Stadium yesterday.
The Ahly playmaker converted the spot-kick on 71 minutes after left-back Ahmed Fattouh was felled by Lebanon’s George Melki.
Egypt lie second in the group with three points, behind Algeria on goal difference after the fellow North Africans crushed Sudan 4-0 earlier in the day.
The Pharaohs struggled to break down Lebanon’s massed ranks, with coach Carlos Queiroz’s selections drawing some criticism.
The Portuguese once again fielded natural forward Mohamed Sherif as a left winger, with the Ahly man failing to make an impact. Other players who excelled in the early stages of the Egyptian Premier League, such as Smouha’s on-loan striker Marwan Hamdi, were also peripheral.
Sherif had Egypt’s best chance in the first half, heading wide when well-positioned to score following a flick from the lively Afsha three minutes before the break.
Substitute Ahmed Refaat also wasted a clear-cut chance when he was released by a defence-splitting pass from Ahly midfielder Amr El-Sulaya on 52 minutes, only to fire straight at keeper Mostafa Matar, who pulled off some fine saves to thwart Egypt on several occasions.
The breakthrough finally came when Fattouh cut inside Melki, who tripped him. Afsha’s powerful effort struck the fingertips of Matar and went in.
Egypt face Sudan in their second Group D match on Saturday.
Jordan surprised Saudi Arabia with a 1-0 victory in their Group C match that saw the cancellation of two goals and the expulsion of a player from each team at the Education City Stadium.
Mahmoud Mardi scored Jordan’s goal, which relied on counter-attacks, with a powerful shot from close range that changed its direction when it hit Khalifa Al Dosari’s foot in the 62nd minute, before Al Dosari was expelled after receiving a second warning in the 74th minute.
Jordan, who shared the lead with Morocco with three points each but trailed on goal difference, scored their goal despite the numerical shortage after Ihsan Haddad was sent off with a direct red card in the 53rd minute after a strong intervention against Turki Al Ammar.
The referee cancelled a goal for Jordan scored by Yazan Al-Naimat in the 39th minute with a powerful shot from inside the penalty area after a mistake by Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Al Rubaie, but the referee cancelled the referee after using the video assistant referee technology for offside.
The crossbar scored a wonderful header for Jordan in the 49th minute, while the referee canceled a goal for Saudi Arabia in added time after using the video assistant technology.
On Saturday, Saudi Arabia will play Palestine and Jordan will meet Morocco.
Baghdad Bounedjah bagged a brace as Algeria thumped Sudan 4-0 to start their campaign on a positive note at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.
Djamel Belrami and El Arabi Soudani completed the rout as Sudan’s Mohammed Abdel missed a penalty.
At Janoub stadium, Morocco defeated Palestine 4-0.
Morocco initially struggled to break down a determined, well-organised defence and, with half an hour played, had created next to nothing. Frustrated by the lack of progress being made by those in front of him, defender Mohammed Nahiri took matters into his own hands. When he picked the ball up 40 yards from goal, wide on the left and began cutting inside on his weaker foot, the Palestine players could have been forgiven for backing off, inviting the full-back to shoot. But that proved to be a fateful error as Nahiri sent a right-foot rocket flashing through the air and in off the underside of the crossbar, paving the way for a comfortable Moroccan win.