Egypt 3 Libya 0: Mido stars in Egypt's cruise to opening win

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The Independent Online

With a sceptical public not even filling the International Stadium, a convincing win like this was exactly what was needed to get this African Nations' Cup off to a fast start. Anything but for the hosts, and the crowd, who did not even fill the 78,000 ground, may have returned in ever dwindling numbers.

But those worries will have gone now as Egypt dispatched their north African neighbours with ease.

The biggest obstacle last night for some people, apart from indifference, was getting into the stadium. That included the secretary general of the Confederation of African Football, Mustafa Fahmi, who endured one check too many and stormed away from the International Stadium here in the Egyptian capital several hours before the start of the game.

The reason for the high security was the presence of the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, but the presence of the Libya team provided no such difficulties for Egypt, who are hosting their first African Nations' Cup in 20 years. Back then, they won on penalties in the final against Cameroon and they were looking to repeat that feat.

Their biggest star and national hero, Mido, did not let them down. It appeared early on that high balls to the Tottenham Hotspur striker would be a useful ploy and so it turned out after just 18 minutes. From a corner by Mohamed Abdelwahab to the far post, Mido had the simple task of heading in at the far post.

Libya, whose team included the former Arsenal player Jihad Muntasir, who now plays in Italy, saw their tactics in tatters, even more so five minutes later.

Mido flicked on a header to his fellow striker Amr Zaki but he was brought down. The Libya defender was lucky to avoid a red card, receiving a caution instead. Further punishment was inflicted anyhow, when Mohamed Aboutrika curled in a delightful free-kick from 22 yards out past the flat-footed goalkeeper who plays his club football for Liverpool. In case any fans of the Anfield club start to get worried, however, that is an unrelated team called Liverpool B, in Uruguay.

Perhaps the Libya goalkeeper was still busy recovering from the shock of seeing thousands of scarabs on the pitch, one of the many attractions of the opening ceremony. The abiding memory of the ceremony in 2004 in Tunisia was a Carthaginian longboat, and not to be outdone, the Egyptians laid on another massive seafaring vessel.

Unlike its counterpart two years ago, its fate was not to be dispatched into the night sky and the desert. This one stayed firmly rooted on the ground, although whether the locals do after this result is another matter.

Egypt confirmed their superiority when Zaki was brought down by Luis de Agustini, the unfortunate goalkeeper who was then sent off. Mido's night was slightly spoiled as his penalty was saved but Ahmed Hassan converted the rebound.

Egypt (4-4-2): Al Hadari (Ahly); Abdelwahab (Ahly), Said (Zamalek), El Saqqa (Konyaspor), Shawki (Ahly); Barakat (Ahly), Gomaa (Ahly), Aboutrika (Ahly), Hassan (Besiktas); Mido (Tottenham), Zaki (ENPPI). Substitutes: Moteab (Ahly) for Zaki, 80; T El Sayed (Zamalek) for Abdelwahab, 88.

Libya (4-4-2): De Agustini (Liverpool B); Daoud (Kabylie), Shibani (Olympic), Ramli (Al Ittihad), Maklouf (Al Ittihad); Muntasir (Treviso), Tarhuni (Al Siliya), Slil (Al Ittihad), Hamadi (Al Ittihad); Saad (Tripoli), Rewani (Al Ittihad). Substitutes: Ghazalla (Al Ittihad) for Muntasir, 75; El Taib (Gazientepspor) for Saad, 64.

Referee: P Lasina (Burkina Faso).