Alexandria, Egypt — The last frontier in the race to the 2018 World Cup was broken on Tuesday night as Egypt beat Uganda 1-0 to seize the summit in group E.
Liverpool's Mohammed Salah scored the only goal at near-full Borg Al Arab stadium in Alexandria in the sixth minute to end goalkeeper Denis Onyango's run of clean sheets in World Cup qualifying.
In what is turning out into a see-saw race for lone slot in Russia, the Pharaohs retook group leadership. They now have nine points having dropped to second last Thursday when they lost 1-0 in Kampala.
Uganda, on seven, face third-placed Ghana (5) next month with the latter having thrashed Congo Brazzaville 5-1 to retain faint hope of a fourth successive World Cup appearance.
For now, the jostle remains between two-time World Cup finalists Egypt and Uganda.
They were widely expected to serve an exciting encounter. Their clash was anything but as the hosts dominated and should have scored more.
Only the brilliance of Africa's best player Onyango kept the margin slim with three million dollar saves.
Even Salah's goal came off a rebound after the African club champion had denied him from point blank range.
However, Uganda offered little on the other end of the pitch, hardly challenging Esam El Hadary in the Egyptian goal.
The best coach Moses Basena's team came to scoring was in the 18th minute. Derrick Nsibambi's header off an Okwi cross went wide.
Egypt will be in the World Cup for the first time since 1990 if they win their remaining two games against Ghana and Congo Brazzaville.
Ironically, Uganda need to beat both too then hope for a favour from either in order to leapfrog the seven-time African champions for a maiden World Cup appearance.
Denis Onyango (7/10)
Onyango can do no wrong, right? For the goal Uganda conceded, he made a save but his backline didn't react quickly enough to clear the danger. Otherwise, it could have been worse had it not been for his brilliant saves thereafter.
Nicholas Wadada (4/10)
Another slow start to the game precipitated into Wadada losing possession from which Egypt played a delightful ball over the defence for Salah to run on to.
Godfrey Walusimbi (5/10)
With Salah expected to lift his game after the Kampala leg, Walusimbi got a tougher roasting in Alexandria. He gets a 50/50 for his crosses.
Isaac Isinde (5/10)
As the game wore on, Isinde showed signs of wear and tear in a game his defending left Onyango exposed.
Murushid Juuko (5/10)
Juuko's command at the back was neither here nor there.
Hassan Wasswa (5/10)
The Egyptian midfield shed his ability to block their path.
Khalid Aucho (5/10)
Deployed as the second blocker, Aucho was often too slow to release the ball when the forward players wanted it.
Faruku Miya (3/10)
Miya is clearly going a tough spell. And it's not even about the goals drying up. Just like against Cape Verde and the home leg against Egypt, he gave away the ball way too easily and seems not to let the game come to him.
Emmanuel Okwi (4/10)
After his goal for the 1-0 victory in Kampala, Okwi was a marked man. He didn't break those chains, choosing to stay wide for too long.
Derrick Nsibambi (4/10)
It's quiet a thankless job being a 'target man'. Nsibambi has the art to do so but not the tools as he was again undersized to run the lines and take all that contact.
Joseph Ochaya (3/10)
Withdrawing Ochaya at halftime for William Kizito Luwagga was meant tactical. But, it also emphasized how Ochaya was struggling on the day.
William Kizito Luwagga (5/10)
Given the entire second half to impress after the recall last week, Luwagga made one mazy run beating two defenders and also played in Walusimbi's overlap. You always feel Luwagga should do more
Geoffrey Sserunkuma (5/10)
Sserunkuma resumed his partnership with Nsibambi just like at KCCA. He got on to a few balls though the ball didn't come into areas where he could threaten the Egyptians' defence.
Milton Karisa (unrated)
Came in too late to earn a mark.
COACH MOSES BASENA 5/10
By choosing to stick with the XI from the first leg, Basena showed stiffness. His three attack-minded substitutions were meant to turn the game. They didn't.
2018 WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS
RESULTS - GROUP E
Egypt 1-0 Uganda
Congo Brazzaville 1-5 Ghana
DR Congo 2-2 Tunisia
Burkina Faso 2-2 Senegal
Ivory Coast 1-2 Gabon
Mali 0-0 Morocco
South Africa 1-2 Cape Verde
Algeria 0-1 Zambia