Johannesburg (AFP) – Mostafa Mohamed scored in the final minute to snatch a 1-1 World Cup Group F qualifying draw for 10-man Egypt in Gabon on Sunday after Jim Allevinah had put the dominant hosts ahead.
Billed as a showdown between high-profile English Premier League forwards Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Gabon and Mohamed Salah of Egypt, the stars had to take back seats as two substitutes netted.
All the drama came in the final 19 minutes in Franceville, starting with a red card for Egypt midfielder Omar Gaber after being yellow-carded twice.
Allevinah put Gabon ahead two minutes later, beating goalkeeper Mohamed el Shenawy from inside the box after the visitors failed to clear a free-kick.
Egypt coach Hossam el Badry reacted to falling behind by introducing Mohamed 13 minutes from time and the Galatasaray forward nodded in a dramatic equaliser after his chip was parried.
Salah missed a win over Angola last Wednesday because Egypt is on the United Kingdom coronavirus “red list” and he would have been forced to quarantine for 10 days on his return had he gone to Cairo.
Meanwhile, Namibia went top of Group H with a surprise 1-0 away victory over Togo thanks to a spectacular second-half goal by Elmo Kambindu.
After coming off the bench in a 1-1 draw with Congo Brazzaville three days ago, Kambindu was promoted to the starting line-up by coach Bobby Samaria for the match in Lome.
The change paid off eight minutes into the second half when Kambindu scored with a bicycle kick after Deon Hotto floated a free-kick into a crowded goalmouth.
Namibia have four points from two matches, one more than Sadio Mane-inspired Senegal, who will regain first place if they avoid losing in Congo on Monday.
– Togo pointless –
Togo are pointless under recently hired Portuguese coach Paulo Duarte after also losing in Senegal, and are all but out of the running to finish first and secure a place in the final qualifying round.
Rwanda and Kenya, who drew 1-1 in Kigali, are other countries with little hope of being among the 10 group winners after the sixth and final round of mini-league matches in November.
Kenya have two points and Rwanda one after two matches each in Group E while leaders Mali, who have three points, play in Uganda on Monday.
When Rwanda goalkeeper Emery Mvuyekure fumbled a low cross, Michael Olunga hammered the ball into the net on nine minutes for the visitors.
The lead lasted 11 minutes before a header from centre-back Abdul Rwatubyaye struck a fellow Rwandan and landed in the Kenyan net.
Qatar-based Olunga was a constant threat, but could not score again to secure the victory Kenya desperately needed after being held by Uganda in Nairobi on Thursday.
A Group D showdown in Abidjan between the Ivory Coast and Cameroon, countries who have qualified for the World Cup 10 times between them, is the highlight of a six-fixture schedule on Monday.
There should have been seven matches, but the Group I clash between Guinea and Morocco was called off on Sunday because of a “volatile political and security situation in Conakry”, according to CAF.
Guinean special forces head Colonel Mamady Doumbouya said soldiers had seized power, dissolved the constitution of the mineral-rich but impoverished country, and detained President Alpha Conte.
The Moroccan delegation managed to stay “safe” at a Conakry hotel before later departing the country to head home, national football federation official Mohamed Makrouf told AFP in Rabat.