Johannesburg (AFP) – A brilliant assist by Egypt captain Mohamed Salah triggered a comeback that earned a 2-2 World Cup draw in Angola on Friday, and a place in the final African qualifying stage.
The Liverpool star pushed the ball between two defenders and onrushing Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny slammed the ball into the net to halve an Angolan lead to 2-1 by the interval.
Akram Tawfik equalised with a deflected shot just before the hour and the draw gave Egypt an unassailable four-point lead over Gabon in Group F with one round remaining.
Meanwhile, Group A leaders Algeria extended an unbeaten run in competitive and friendly matches to 32 by hammering Djibouti 4-0 in Group A in Cairo with recent West Ham recruit Said Benrahma among the goals.
Algeria surpassed the African record of the Ivory Coast in June and now have their sights on the 37-match world record set by Italy this year.
In Luanda, Helder Costa, the Leeds United winger on loan to Valencia, gave Angola a lead that doubled when M’Bala Nzola converted a penalty.
Salah, who won the Premier League Player of the Month and Goal of the Month awards on Friday, was the centre of attention with several spectators racing on to the pitch during the match seeking selfies.
The only disappointment for the Liverpool sharpshooter was seeing a personal goal drought stretch to four matches after scoring in 10 consecutive games.
He even found time during the match to act as a peacemaker after a scuffle close to the Egypt bench threatened to get out of hand soon after Egypt levelled.
– Coach Queiroz pushed –
Salah calmed his teammates and opponents after Egypt coach and former Real Madrid manager and Manchester United assistant Carlos Queiroz was pushed by an Angolan player.
The closing stages were incident free with both teams seemingly satisfied with a point as Egypt moved closer to a fourth World Cup appearance.
They were invited to the 1934 tournament in Italy and qualified for the 1990 finals in the same country and the 2018 edition in Russia.
Egypt are the fourth group winners after Senegal, Morocco and Mali to secure places in two-leg play-offs next March that will decide which five African teams go to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The remaining six places will be decided by Tuesday with African champions Algeria, Nigeria, Tunisia set to make it.
Ivory Coast and Cameroon, South Africa and Ghana and Benin and the Democratic Republic are locked in two-team battles to win the other sections.
Morocco are the only team boasting a perfect record in the group stage with a 3-0 ‘away’ win over Sudan in Rabat giving them 15 points from five Group I outings.
Ryan Mmaee bagged a brace before Imran Louza from Premier League outfit Watford completed the scoring in added time.
It was a home fixture for Sudan, but the east African nation lack an international-standard stadium and moved the game to the Moroccan capital.
Another Premier League forward to score was Arsenal talisman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, whose penalty earned Gabon a 1-0 win over Libya in Franceville.
A Burkina Faso side severely depleted by injuries to forwards fell two points behind Algeria after being held 1-1 by Niger while Guinea remain winless in Group I after a 0-0 home draw with Guinea-Bissau.
Leading scorer Abdoul Tapsoba and Aston Villa forward Bertrand Traore were among the Burkinabe absentees in Marrakech.