Mohamed Salah scored his first goal of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations and Naby Keita made his first start after injury as the summer internationals continued.
Liverpool’s Egyptian king scored just before half time in Egypt’s second group stage fixture, helping his side to a 2-0 win over DR Congo.
The hosts won their opening game against Zimbabwe and the three points here against their next Group A opponents means Egypt will definitely be in the knock-out stage.
Salah operated from the right wing as his starting position, but spent plenty of time roving forward into the striker’s area, not unlike the positional flexibility he has at club level.
His effort was one Reds fans will have witnessed and admired many times over, too: confusing a back-pedaling defender, feinting to shoot toward the far post and burying it instead inside the near, putting his side two up.
All hail the Egyptian King! ?? ?@MoSalah grabs his first goal of the #AFCON2019 in style ? pic.twitter.com/wf83agMLF5
— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) June 26, 2019
It was his 40th goal for Egypt in just his 63rd cap, highlighting his worth to the team.
That said, it wasn’t Salah’s most electric performance across the 90 minutes; early on his play was somewhat sloppy, gifting possession away as he tried to create chances for his team-mates.
One early chance on goal was blocked and diverted wide, while Salah later sent a free-kick on target, but it was saved.
With Egypt sitting back in the second half, Salah’s influence waned somewhat, though he remained an outlet on the counter. He played the full 90 minutes as his side saw out the somewhat fortuitous win, given Congo hit the woodwork twice and Egypt might have had a red card along the way.
Egypt’s final group game is against Uganda on Sunday, 30 June.
Earlier on Wednesday, Naby Keita had been in action for Guinea against Nigeria, again a second group stage fixture.
It was Keita’s first return to the starting XI since he suffered an injury on 1 May, in Liverpool’s Champions League semi-final first leg at Barcelona.
Keita played the final 20 minutes of Guinea’s first game, a draw with Madagascar, and here he played a full 70 minutes—though, naturally, he was not firing on all cylinders after his seven-week absence.
It was a tough outing for Keita, who played in an advanced midfield role, as he was targeted by several rough challenges by the Nigerians, leaving the No. 8 needing treatment more than once.
Keita made a couple of inventive through-passes and the odd dribble—trademark stepovers aplenty—but more often than not, that’s exactly what ended with him being crudely chopped down.
His ankles, shins and knees all took a few hits and it wasn’t a huge surprise when Keita was withdrawn for the last quarter.
Just a couple of minutes after his departure, Guinea conceded from a set-piece and that was the only goal of the game, Nigeria winning 1-0.
It means Guinea need a win in their final group game against Burundi to have a chance of reaching the knock-out phase, with that fixture taking place on Sunday, 30 June—otherwise Keita will be heading off for his summer holidays.