Ghana’s immediate response was muted and just as signs of dynamism started to flicker, skipper Asamoah Gyan was forced off through injury. His replacement, Jordan Ayew, added trickery to the attack.
But Egypt’s wily back line – orchestrated by skipper Essam El Hadary - dealt with the threat. Even when Ghana increased the pressure midway through the second half, Egypt slowed the pace when they had possession or injected scrappiness with niggly fouls to frustrate their opponents. El Hadary was also equal to the shots towards his goal.
“We’re disappointed we lost,” said Gyan. “The first half wasn’t that good. But second half we came back strongly. We were putting them under pressure but we didn’t get too many chances because they were defending really deep.”
The 31-year-old who was seeking his 50th international goal added: “Everyone was behind the ball and they had tall men in the box and then they were looking to hit on the counter. It was very difficult to penetrate.”
The defeat leaves Ghana with a trip to Oyem in northern Gabon to take on the Group C winners Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday afternoon while Egypt remain in Port-Gentil to welcome Morocco on Sunday night. “It was an important victory for us,” said Egypt defender Ahmed Elmohamady.
“We started the group games slowly with the draw against Mali and the wins against Uganda and Ghana now mean that we stay in Port-Gentil," he added. "Travelling is tiring during a Cup of Nations so we’ve done the main thing. We’ve come top and we’re staying.”