Sierra Leone have started their 2012 AFCON qualifiers in the most positive of manners by drawing away to Egypt.
A second half strike Mustapha Bangura goal was enough to allow a brave Sierra Leonean side to leave Cairo International Stadium with a valuable point. The visitors went toe to toe with the African champions who leveled through Ahmed Fathallah shortly after Bangura gave his country the lead.
Egypt got things underway in Cairo and looked to control the tempo as they so often do but it was Sierra Leone that had the first good chance of the match through Mohamed Bangura who missed Essam Al Hadhary’s frame with a volley after evading the Egyptian defense.
The Pharaohs’ first opportunity to score fell to their marquee striker and 2010 AFCON hero, Mohamed Nagy Geddo, who couldn’t guide his header on target. Minutes later, an unmarked Kei Kamara should have put the Leone Stars ahead when he was found near the penalty spot but he fluffed the precious chance.
In the 10th’s minute, Al Ahly’s center forward got in the way of a Sayed Moawwad cross that was destined for his strike partner, Ahmed Ali, who was in a good position to score. On the other end, Albert Jarrett came close to getting the opener with a powerful free kick attempt that was deviated by the defensive wall.
Egypt responded with their own set piece which was taken by Mohamed Aboutrika but the Smiling Assasin’s low curling effort was parried by the opposing keeper. However, Christian Caulker was no match to the playmaker’s next long range shot which crashed against the goal post.
As the half wore on, Egypt began to exert their dominance but still couldn’t find a path to the back of Sierra Leone’s well guarded net and the first period ended goalless.
In the second, Ahmed Fathi twice could have given his team the lead but both Christian Caulker and the goalpost conspired against him. Then, Sierra Leone made good on their earlier threats when Mustapha Bangura powered his way past two defenders before beating El Hadhary to put Christian Cole’s team up 1-0.
However, the Sierra Leoneans hardly had time to celebrate as Ahmed Fathallah headed in the equalizer only four minutes later. Just as it seemed that the Egyptians were about to restore order, Bangura was once again alone in front of goal but this time El Hadhary produced a fine save to deny him his second.
Both teams continued to exchange attacks with a surprising Sierra Leone managing to do more than just stay in the game. In the 87th minute, Aboutrika had a chance to grab all three points after some great work by Geddo but the Egyptian legend hurried his strike and missed completely to the ire of the Cairo crowd.
The result is an absolute coup for a deserving Sierra Leone side that was not fancied to come away with anything before kick-off and Egypt have once against begun a qualifying campaign with a 1-1 home draw after doing the same against Zambia last year.