JOHANNESBURG: Liverpool star Mohamed Salah scored direct from a corner but was later injured as Egypt romped to a 4-1 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying win over eSwatini on Friday.
The striker went down holding his leg as the Group J match drew to a close in Cairo, resumed after receiving treatment, and was almost immediately withdrawn.
Speaking after the match, Egypt assistant coach Hany Ramzy told BeIN Sports: “The initial diagnosis, according to the team doctor, is a strong muscle strain. It is not a tear, I think it is not serious.”
A spokesman for the team’s medical department told the www.Kooora.com website: “He (Salah) had a light strain, we will do a scan as soon as possible.
“I doubt he can play next Tuesday. We will be sure after the scan,” he added, referring to the return match against eSwatini in Manzini.
After scoring 44 goals in all competitions during his first season at Anfield, the striker has netted only three this term, with just one since August.
Salah netted twice and missed two penalties when record seven-time African champions Egypt hammered Niger 6-0 last month in another qualifier.
With eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) ranked even lower than Niger, there were expectations that Salah could get back on the goal trail at the Al Salam Stadium.
He blasted a shot wide with Egypt three goals ahead before curling a corner into the net on the stroke of half-time.
Salah fluffed a chance to net again by missing from inside the box during the second half after combining with Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny.
Captain Ahmed Elmohamady, Amr Warda and Mahmoud Hassan also scored for Egypt and Sibonginkosi Gamedze snatched a late eSwatini goal.
Tunisia, who host Niger Saturday, and Egypt have six points each in a mini-league both seem certain to qualify from for the 2019 Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
– Da Costa turned the tide –
Jonathan Kodjia, Manchester United defender Eric Bailly, Cheick Doukoure and Maxwel Cornet scored for the Ivory Coast as they crushed the Central African Republic 4-0 in Bouake.
In the other Group H match, Guinea defeated Rwanda 2-0 in Conakry through goals from Francois Kamano and Ibrahima Cisse to stay three points ahead of the Ivorians.
Angola ended the perfect, two-victory Group I record of Mauritania by recovering from conceding a third-minute goal to triumph 4-1 in Luanda.
Captain Mateus da Costa turned the tide with goals after 12 and 16 minutes, levelling from a penalty before volleying his team into the lead.
Angola and Mauritania have six points and Burkina Faso can join them if they win at home to bottom team Botswana Saturday.
An Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting goal earned Cameroon a laboured 1-0 Group B win over Malawi in Yaounde, and Dutch coach Clarence Seedorf his first success as ‘Indomitable Lions’ coach.
Defending champions Cameroon are guaranteed a place among the 24 finalists next year as hosts, but opted to participate in the mini-league phase to gain competitive match practice.
They top the group with seven points, four more than Morocco, who should narrow the gap by defeating the Comoros in Casablanca Saturday.
Group C pacesetters Mali were held 0-0 by second-place Burundi in Bamako after captain Abdoulaye Diaby missed a penalty in the last minute of regular time.
Leaders Algeria moved three points clear of Benin in Group D thanks to a 2-0 win in Blida with Ramy Bensebaini and Baghdad Bounedjah scoring.
New Gabon coach Daniel Cousin saw his team defeat South Sudan 3-0 in Libreville, Togo snatched a 1-1 draw with the Gambia in Lome and Cape Verde outplayed Tanzania 3-0 in Praia. —AFP