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Men of the matches
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 17 - 08 - 2017

It's a fair understatement when we say it was a dream debut for Mohamed Salah and Ahmed Hegazi as both Egyptian stars played their first official games for their new English clubs.
First, Salah who was always going to feel the pressure going into his first game for Liverpool as the most expensive player in the club's history, enjoyed an unforgettable debut that was ruined with a last minute equaliser from Liverpool's opponents on the day, Watford. In fact, Salah didn't start the game in the best possible fashion as his team conceded a third minute goal that seemed to put the whole team under pressure in the opening stages. Salah in turn didn't look comfortable and seemed hesitant with most of his decisions and missed a clear cut chance when he went one on one with the goalkeeper but shot high to sum up a very frustrating first half for him.
His team then conceded the second goal minutes after Senegalese star Sadio Mane had equalised with an excellent finish after a great give and take with Emre Can. As they started the second half 2-1 down, the whole Liverpool side seemed determined to find and equaliser and pushed forward in numbers. Salah came close in the 48th minute with a good curling effort that went just wide before his turning point in the game. In the 54th minute his frightening speed won his side a penalty as Watford's goalkeeper Gomes caught him late to give Roberto Firmino the chance to equalise and give Salah his first assist for LFC. The Brazilian made no mistake from the spot to make it 2-2 as Jurgen Klopp's men looked for more, wanting to start the season with maximum points.
Two minutes later came the moment every Egyptian and Liverpool fan anticipated ahead of the game as Salah scored his first goal for his club after he followed up Firmino's lob attempt to slot the ball home, giving his side the lead in the 57th minute. From that moment Salah and his teammates played some mesmerising football and missed clear cut chances through Matip, Lovren and Firmino and some half chances from Salah and Origi. Their failure to kill off an easy game where the opponents almost didn't show up in the second half came back to haunt them as they conceded a killer 95th minute equaliser after some shambolic defending. The goal prevented Salah from being the goal scorer of the winning goal in his first official game with LFC but didn't prevent him from winning man of the match thanks to a splendid second half performance. A dream debut from our Egyptian superstar.
If Salah enjoyed an unforgettable debut with Liverpool, Hegazi somehow managed to have and even better opening with his new side West Brom as they faced Bournemouth at home. Yes, our Egyptian defender did have a better debut than Salah himself as he scored the only game of the game to give his side a precious three points in their opening game of the season and give himself the debut any defender in the world would dream of. An impeccable defensive display, a clean sheet and the winning goal in your first game are certainly more than what Hegazi wished for going into the game especially when he was marking one of the best English strikers in the last decade, Jermain Defoe. Hegazi didn't give Defoe a sniff and played with unbelievable confidence as he looked every bit the experienced Premier League defender, leaving the field as proud as every single Egyptian fan. The man of the match award capped off the dream debut and made it two men of the match awards for our Egyptian stars in the same day to make it a really unforgettable day for these two stars.
We're not done yet. Mohamed Elnenny managed to put his mark on this memorable week for Egyptians in the EPL a day earlier when he assisted on the first goal for Arsenal in their thrilling 4-3 win over Leicester City. After much speculation during the summer and after many rumours linking the Egyptian midfielder with a move away, Elnenny reportedly rejected moves to Leicester City as well as Turkish giants Galatasaray to stay at Arsenal and prove he's good enough to play for them.
Hard work always pays off and Elnenny's excellent performances in the preseason convinced Arsene Wenger to start with him in the Charity Shield when they defeated Chelsea in the penalty shootout with Elnenny playing his best game for Arsenal since joining the club less than two year ago. His excellent performance earned him another start in the opening game of the EPL and once again he didn't disappoint despite his side's terrible first half performance. Elnenny assisted the first goal of the English Premier League this season when his exquisite cross found the header of new signing Lacazette to give Arsenal the lead after only 90 seconds. However, some shocking defending saw Leicester score two first half goals before Welbeck equalised in the last minute of the half to make it 2-2.
Nevertheless, Jamie Vardy scored his second of the night to give Leicester a 3-2 lead to put his side on course to securing a big win over Arsenal at the Emirates but things changed dramatically. In the last 10 minutes of the game after Ramsey and Giroud replaced Elnenny and Holding, the two substitutes scored in the 83rd and 85th minute to give their side an unexpected 4-3 win to announce the start of the EPL in the best possible way.
Elnenny had a very good game and will surely be pleased with his performance even though he left the field with his team behind.
Ramadan Sobhi enjoyed a mixed week with Stoke City as our Egyptian star was surprisingly handed an improved new long-term contract to put off teams interested in the player but at the same time he didn't see any action as his side lost away to Everton by a single goal scored by England's golden boy Wayne Rooney who returned to the club this season after 10 years with Manchester United.

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