Egypt made the ideal start to the Africa Cup of Nations by beating Zimbabwe in the opening game of the tournament in Cairo.
Mahmoud Trezeguet scored the only goal of the game with a curled finished just before half time.
Liverpool forward Mo Salah came close to doubling his side’s lead in the second half but his low drive was kept out by Zimbabwe keeper Edmore Sibanda.
Ovidy Karuru had Zimbabwe’s best chance with a 30-yard strike late on.
This year’s tournament is the biggest Africa Cup of Nations ever with 24 teams, and the first to be played in Europe’s summer.
It got off to a spectacular start, with the fans inside the 75,000 capacity Cairo International Stadium treated to an eye-catching opening ceremony that featured giant pyramids on the pitch, elegant dancers forming the shape of a pharaoh’s face and culminating in a huge fireworks display.
But the game itself failed to match that level of sparkle, with Egypt dominating for large periods without troubling Sibanda in the Zimbabwe goal often.
Salah was a lively presence in the first half but put a number of efforts wide of goal and while he did manage to get one shot on target before the interval it was a routine save for Sibanda.
Just as Zimbabwe were enjoying their best spell of half, Egypt took the lead. A neat one-two allowed Trezeguet to break into the box before cutting inside his marker and then despatching a clinical effort into the far corner.
From then on Egypt were comfortable rather than dominant.
Salah forced a decent save out of Sibanda midway through the second half after being picked out by Trezeguet’s defence-splitting pass.
The Liverpool man then raced through just before full time but was this time denied by substitute goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze, who had come on for the injured Sibanda with 10 minutes to go.
The win puts Egypt top of Group A, which also contains DR Congo and Uganda. Those two sides face each other on Saturday at the same ground.
Fireworks were abundant before kick-off but Egypt netted only once in the first half. The Pharaohs could have scored very early on but afterwards the pace of the game declined gradually but it was crucial for the morale of fans and the players to get to half time with the lead.
However, Trezeguet’s goal didn’t give the boost to the performance that was perhaps expected in the second half. The team looked even slower and lacked the rhythm needed to create a threat to the Zimbabwe goal.
In the end it was an important but unconvincing win for the hosts with lots of areas for improvement. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s performance should give them hope of competing for a place in the second round. – BBC Africa.