Hosts Egypt handed Zimbabwe a big stay of execution when they beat DRC 2-0 and ensured the Congolese remained confined to the bottom of the Group A standings at this on-going Total Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
It is the second time that DRC, twice champions of this competition when they were still known as Zaire in the 1970s, have suffered an identical 2-0 defeat in Cairo.
They were first beaten 2-0 by Uganda on June 22 and remain the only team in Group A without a goal or a point.
The Warriors could now capitalize on the Congolese’s slump in form and win their final Group A assignment when the two teams meet at the 30th of June Stadium in Cairo on Sunday.
Zimbabwe are hoping that star midfielder Marvelous Nakamba who was sidelined by injury would have recovered in time for the decisive game.
But coach Sunday Chidzambwa is unable to call on big China-based striker Nyasha Mushekwi whose tournament ended prematurely after he was ruled out for three weeks due to a hamstring injury.
Goals from skipper Ahmed Elmohamady and the sensational Mohammed Salah saw Egypt take maximum points to move top of Group A with six points and with it a place to the next round of 16.
Liverpool star, forward Salah lifted the roof off the Cairo International Stadium with one of his trademark finishes two minutes to the break as the home side finished off the half in an emphatic fashion, doubling their tally and sitting pretty on top of the tie against the Leopards.
DR Congo would feel aggrieved as they headed to the break 2-0 down having hit the woodwork twice. In the 10th minute, skipper Marcel Tisserand extended a leg to tap the ball goal-ward off a corner but it came against the crossbar.
Four minutes before Salah scored the second, Jonathan Bolingi Mpangi saw his looping header from the edge of the six-yard box go beyond Mohamed Elshenawy but against the crossbar.
Save for those two scares, Egypt were more or less top of the proceedings, powered by a full to capacity stadium.
Though Congo came back a determined side in the second half with Cedric Bakambu and Yannick Bollasie having scoring chances, Egypt held on for the win.
Pharaohs coach Javier Aguirre acknowledged that they had not secured an easy win although the result was greeted with a smile by the watching Zimbabweans who would have seen the Warriors move into fourth place had DRC won.
“I salute DR Congo on their good performance especially in the second half. We felt a bit tired, just as was the case against Zimbabwe. I will have to find answers for this problem. We controlled the game and now we have six points and booked our eight finals ticket. I will field some new players because many of our key players feel fatigued. We kept our clean sheet for the second time and this proves our defensive strength,’’ Aguirre said.
DRC coach Florent Ibenge, however remains optimistic they will get it right against Zimbabwe.
“We did not deserve to lose. Yes, we played a bad game against Uganda but this time we had a very good game against Egypt. I feel sorry for the players who gave their best today against a strong team like Egypt. We will fight in the next match against Zimbabwe to get the 3 points. (Mohamed) Salah and (Mahmoud) Trezeguet are amazing players and they make the difference for Egypt,’’ Ibenge said.