Port-Gentil - Essam El Hadary became the oldest player ever
to appear at the Africa Cup of Nations as Egypt drew 0-0 with Mali on their
return to the tournament on Tuesday.
The 44-year-old goalkeeper came off the bench in the first
half to replace the injured Ahmed El Shennawy and beat the old mark set by
compatriot Hossam Hassan, who was 39 when he played at the 2006 Cup of Nations.
Otherwise, the Pharaohs' return to Africa's biggest stage
after a seven-year absence proved to be something of an anti-climax with
neither side creating many chances on a terrible playing surface in
The result means Ghana are in control of Group D following
their 1-0 win against Uganda earlier in the day at the same venue. Ghana meet
Mali next on Saturday while Egypt face Uganda later the same day.
Egypt had not been seen at a Cup of Nations since winning a
record seventh title, and third in a row, in 2010.
This was always going to be a big test for them against a
Malian side who may as well have been playing at home.
The large Malian community in Port-Gentil - an oil-rich
seaport perched on Gabon's western tip - turned out to give their side
colourful and vociferous backing and made up most of the crowd of 12 600.
Mali might have won an early penalty when Moussa Marega was
bundled over by Ali Gabr in the box but South African referee Daniel Bennett
waved play on.
El Shennawy then touched a Lassana Coulibaly header around
the post before having to be replaced in the 25th minute by El Hadary, who
celebrated his 44th birthday on Sunday.
The veteran did not have much to do and it was Egypt who had
the best opportunities from then on, Tarek Hamed setting up Arsenal midfielder
Mohamed Elneny for a first-time effort that went narrowly over.
Some Malian fans performed their evening prayer in the
stadium concourse at half time before returning to witness a stodgy second
Egypt could have opened the scoring on the counterattack in the
54th minute, pouncing on a fresh-air swipe by midfielder Sambou Yatabare at the
other end of the field.
Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim's cross from the left was met by a
flying header from Marwan Mohsen, but Mali's goalkeeper Oumar Sissoko produced
a superb reaction stop to turn the ball over the bar.