It looked as though Egypt and Tunisia would share the spoils, but some individual brilliance from Liverpool star Mohamed Salah – along with help from Al Ahly youngster Salah Mohsen – gave the Pharaohs a thrilling 3-2 win over their North African rivals in the penultimate 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier for each team.
The result sends Egypt to the summit of Group J, though both teams had already qualified for next summer’s finals in Cameroon.
Naim Sliti gave Tunisia the lead after the Egyptian defense was caught in no man’s land, resulting in a one-on-one with Pharaohs goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shenawy and an easy finish for Sliti.
Egypt continued it’s attack-minded approach and were awarded with an equalizer as Mahmoud Trezeguet’s effort took a deflection on its way into the net.
Egypt then took the lead in the second half, as defender Baher Elmohamady headed home Amr Warda’s free-kick cross unmarked from close range.
But it was Sliti to the rescue for Tunisia again, taking advantage of an unmanned, uncoordinated Egyptian defense to equalize for the guests.
Just as the match seemed destined for a draw, Salah combined with 20-year-old starlet Mohsen for a one-two and a brilliant, match-winning chip.
Though the contest was largely academic, it was a physical and contentious one, with some entertaining play interrupted by the occasional skirmish.
Egypt manager Javier Aguirre may have to find a more balanced approach, as Egypt seems to have over-corrected its stiflingly defensive scheme under former manager Hector Cuper with the opposite extreme, leaving the defense perpetually vulnerable.
Egypt closes out its qualifying campaign in Niger while Tunisia hosts eSwatini.