Egypt sorely missed injured captain Mohamed Salah as they slumped to a shock 2-0 defeat by Ethiopia on Thursday in 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier.
A strain ruled out the prolific Liverpool scorer after he defied his club last Sunday and played in a victory over Guinea despite not being fully fit.
Egypt lacked several other injured first choices, but were still expected to secure maximum Group D points in neutral Malawi against opponents 108 places lower in the world rankings.
But the quick Ethiopian forwards repeatedly troubled a slow Egyptian defence in the opening half and goals from Dawa Hotessa and captain Shemeles Bekele gave them a two-goal half-time advantage.
Egypt had more possession in the second half on a pitch badly cut up in places due to torrential pre-match rain.
Ethiopia were forced to play in Lilongwe because, like 16 other countries competing in qualifying, they do not have an international-standard stadium.
Coach Ehab Galal has only been in charge of Egypt for two matches after Portuguese Carlos Queiroz could not agree to terms for an extension of his contract.
Galal, who left Cairo club Pyramids to take over the Pharaohs, will now come under intense pressure as a year filled with disappointments for Egypt continues.
They lost the last Cup of Nations final to Senegal on penalties in February and one month later suffered a similar fate against the same team in a play-off to decide who went to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Egypt needed 87 minutes to score the goal that beat Guinea in the opening round of 2023 Cup of Nations qualifying and the loss to Ethiopia left them bottom of the table.
The only consolation for Galal and his squad is that the other teams in the section — Ethiopia, Malawi, and Guinea — have also won and lost so each side has three points.