PORT GENTIL - Egypt grabbed top spot in Group D at the African Nations Cup Group D on Wednesday as Mohammed Salah rifled home a superb free kick to seal a 1-0 victory over Ghana in Port Gentil.
There was also a first goal and a first point in 39 years for Uganda at the continental championship, but no victory as they were held 1-1 by Mali on a rain-soaked pitch in Oyem.
Egypt’s win set up a quarter-final meeting with Morocco at the same venue on Sunday while Ghana move to Oyem to face Group C winners the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Compact and disciplined, Egypt won a free kick inside the opening 10 minutes after a clumsy challenge by John Boye on Abdallah El Said and Salah stepped up to hammer the ball through the wall.
Their 44-year-old goalkeeper Essam El Hadary was largely untroubled, though he did well to deny Christian Atsu and Jordan Ayew.
Seven-times winners Egypt, marking their return to the tournament after a seven-year absence, were the only team not to concede a goal in the pool phase.
“Our goal was always to win the match, we never go into a match with the intention to draw,” Egypt coach Hector Cuper told reporters.
“I would have liked a better second half but we were playing a very strong opponent."
Ghana lost veteran forward Asamoah Gyan to a groin injury five minutes before halftime and coach Avram Grant is unsure whether he will be fit for the quarter-finals.
"It's not looking so good but Gyan is a very strong boy," Grant said. "We will need to wait and see. We will have a scan and then we will know better."
Uganda avoided a third straight defeat as teenage striker Farouk Miya gave them the lead against Mali with a shot from the edge of the box on 70 minutes.
But that advantage was short-lived as Yves Bissouma equalised with a spectacular free kick three minutes later.
The game was played with large puddles on the pitch following a tropical downpour before kickoff which made passing and control difficult for the players.
The tournament will now take a two-day break before resuming with Saturday’s quarter-finals in which Burkina Faso take on Tunisia in Libreville and Senegal clash with Cameroon in Franceville.