Mohamed Salah scored his first goal of the Africa Cup of Nations as hosts Egypt secured a place in the last 16 on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Ahmed Elmohamady prodded Egypt ahead on 25 minutes after a wicked Salah cross and the Liverpool star slammed in a second shortly before half-time to spark frenzied celebrations at a packed Cairo International Stadium.
Record seven-time champions Egypt rode their luck at times as DR Congo twice struck the crossbar in the first half but the Group A leaders held firm to join Nigeria as the first teams through to the knockout phase.
Egypt overcame the distraction of Amr Warda being banished from the squad earlier in the day over mounting sexual harassment allegations. The claims surfaced earlier this week on social media platforms. Multiple women posted screenshots and testimonies of Warda’s alleged lewd comments.
“I think the team is strong and the squad is strong but we are not happy to lose a member of our family,” said coach Javier Aguirre. “The team focused more on our match and played the 90 minutes in a serious manner. I don’t think the Egyptian team will be affected by the absence of anyone.”
Mexican Aguirre fielded the same side that defeated Zimbabwe 1-0, with centre-back Ahmed Hegazy sporting a mask after breaking his nose in the opening game of the tournament.
Salah was guilty of missing a hatful of chances in the curtain-raiser and this season’s Premier League joint top scorer again threatened inside five minutes here when an interception broke his way only for the Egyptian to skew wide under pressure.
After four days of small crowds, another capacity 75,000 crowd turned out to cheer on the hosts in the capital, but they were nearly silenced when Marcel Tisserand slammed against the bar at a corner.