El-Said breaks hard-fighting Cranes’ hearts

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PORT GENTIL- Abdallah El-Said scored on 89 minutes to break hard-fighting Cranes’ hearts as Uganda became the first team to exit the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon on Saturday night.

 The Cranes had matched, even bettered the Egyptians for the better part of the match until the quality of Mohamed Salah calmly controlled the ball inside the penalty area to pass to El-Said, whose rocket from close range beat Denis Onyango and 37 million Ugandans.

 Uganda will now travel north of Port Gentil to Oyem to play their final match against Mali with only pride at stake, and perhaps a chance for scouts to have one more look at their prospects.

 The Cranes are now bottom of the group with no point. Ghana, who beat Mali 1-0 thanks to Asamoah Gyan’s goal, top Group D with six points. Egypt, who face Ghana on Wednesday, are second with four.

It was a delicately balanced game with both sides enjoying good spells of passing football and encouraging surges.

  Farouk Miya and Joseph Ochaya had turns towards the Egyptian goal, with skipper Geoffrey Massa diligent in his supervisory role, while the other end it was the Roma forward Salah the ever present danger.

 Salah’s first wave of magic came on 20 minutes when he killed a ball inside the penalty area from Ramadan Sobhi, lifted it over two Ugandan players before an urgent clearance from Godfrey Walusimbi – one of the three changes Micho Sredojevic made from the match against Ghana – kept it goalless.

Fans cheer Uganda Cran

Fans cheer Uganda Cranes in Gabon. AFP photo

 Three minutes later Salah was at it again, collecting the ball from the middle to beat the tagging Hassan Wasswa on the right midfield before carrying on to Onyango only for his shot to drag across the face of goal.

 Amidst all this, the Cranes made a good account of themselves whenever they got possession.

 Indeed, the Egyptians survived one of Ochaya’s dangerous crosses from the left on 27 minutes when it invited 44-year-old Essam El-Hadary out of his goal, with Massa lurking, but centre back Ahmed Elsayed put out for a corner.

 The next moves saw Dennis Guma win possession inside Uganda’s half, drive forward to Miya, who was in the groove at this time.

 Miya, 21, carried on, exchanging one-two with Tonny Mawejje – who was more pronounced than Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny in the middle of the park – but Miya dragged wide his shot from the edge of the area.

 The Pharaohs almost punished Uganda the other end. Marwan Mohsen gathered possession after a failed Cranes attack, glanced head and saw Salah making a run behind the Ugandan backline.

 Salah evaded it but Onyango had seen the danger, racing out of goal to head the ball away and take the tie into half time goalless.

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