André Ayew scored a penalty as Ghana beat Uganda 1-0 on Tuesday in a lackluster opening, Egypt start slow
- Ghana gets the first win
- Egypt held Mali
- Legendary Essam El-Hadary makes history
The West Ham United winger scored in the 32nd minute of the Group D game after Asamoah Gyan was held back by Isaac Isinde in the penalty area in Port-Gentil.
Avram Grant, a former Chelsea manager, is looking to lead Ghana to a second successive final in this tournament but go better than 2015 when his team lost on penalties against Ivory Coast. Uganda is also past runners-up in the Africa Cup of Nations but their trip to the final in 1978 was also the last time they qualified until making it to Gabon this time round.
In Group D’s evening game Egypt’s goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary became the oldest player in the tournament’s history but his team could only manage a dour 0-0 draw with Mali.
The 44-year-old, who had been Egypt’s first-choice keeper for two World Cup qualifiers late last year, was dropped for Tuesday’s match, but came on in the 23rd minute after Ahmed El-Shenawi injured himself scrambling to tip away a curling cross.
He had little to do for the remainder of the first half as both teams struggled to break through tight defences, although Mali’s Lassana Coulibaly missed a good opportunity from Moussa Marega’s cross in the 42nd minute.
Egypt’s first real chance came after the break when Marwan Mohsen surged through to head a clever cross from Abdallah El Said, but his effort was tipped over by Mali’s goalkeeper.
The game remained a bruising midfield battle with too many mistakes and hardly any goal-scoring chances and it was only near the end of the game that El Hadary was called into action to come out to make a one-handed stop to deny Marega.
Egypt won three back-to-back Nations Cup titles between 2006 and 2010, but failed to qualify for the next three editions.