Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah was the hero for Egypt while Manchester United’s Eric Bailly was the villain for Ivory Coast as The Pharaohs beat Les Elephants 5-4 on post match penalties to sail into the quarter finals of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
The Egyptians have now set up a mouth watering clash against North African rivals Morocco who yesterday beat Malawi 2-1 to book a last eight ticket.
Goalkeeper Mohamed Abou Gabal who had come in midway through the second half for the injured Mohamed Elshenawy saved Bailly’s penalty, Ivory Coast’s third in the shootout.
The end to end game had to be decided on penalties after a 0-0 stalemate in 90 minutes and added time.
On penalties, Nicholas Pepe and Ibrahim Sangare scored the first two for Ivory Coast while Ahmed Sayed ‘Zizo’ and Amr El Solia scored the first two for the Egyptians.
Bailly’s kick, what looked like a lazy attempt was pushed to the bar by substitute keeper Abou Gabal. Omar Kamal responded scoring Egypt’s response.
Max Cornet scored the fourth for the Ivorians with Mohamed Abdelmonem responding. Wilfried Zaha stepped forward for the final kick, scoring for the Elephants.
All eyes were now on keeper Badra Ali Sangare to save his side, with Salah, a near perfect penalty taker stepping forward for the Egyptians. The Liverpool man made no mistake, slotting the deciding kick home.
In regulation time, it was an end to end affair, both sides putting in good work offensively. It was the Egyptians who had the most of the opening chances. Omar Marmoush came close for the Pharaohs with a rasping shot from distance coming off the bar.
In the 22nd minute, Salah forced keeper Sangare to a good save, tipping the ball over the bar after the Liverpool forward took a snap shot on the volley at the edge of the box.
The Ivorians suffered a massive blow on the half hour mark when midfielder Franck Kessie had to come off injured and was replaced by Serey Die.
Egypt continued to dominate and had more chances, especially with Kessie, who had been influential in midfield, missing out.
In the 35th minute, Salah sent Mostafa Mohamed through with a peach of a pass, but the striker’s effort at goal was thwarted. A minute later, Sangare who had been kept busy all through the opening minutes pulled off another decent save to deny Salah.
On the other end, Ivory Coast had their closest chance at goal in the 38th minute when Elshenawy pulled off a great save to deny Ibrahim Sangare’s acrobatic kick from inside the box.
In the second half, the Ivorians stepped up the tempo and they pressed Egypt more, looking to get an opener. In the 69th minute Elshenawy pulled off another great save to deny Sebastian Haller who had taken a snap header from inside the box.
Ivory Coast introduced Zaha late on to spice their attack and in the 84th minute he had a go at goal when he ran into the box to the left but his low shot was well kept out by Elshenawy. But the aftermath of the save was detrimental to the Egyptian keeper who injured himself in the process.
He was replaced t Abou Gabal, the Zamalek SC shot stopper.
With no winner in regulation time, the game had to go another half hour to find a winner. Both sides didn’t show much sign of fatigue as they continued to play on the front foot.
Gabal was called into a brilliant save, one that perhaps won Egypt the game when he leaped to his left to punch away a brilliant shot from Sangare who had taken a first time curling shot from inside the box.
With no winner in regulation plus half an hour extra time, the game was decided from the lottery.
Meanwhile in the late kick off, Equatorial Guinea progressed to the quarter finals for the second time ever after edhing oyt pre-match favourites Mali 6-5 on penalties following a draw in regulation time.
Skipper Emilio Nsue had a bad start for the Equatoguineans missing the first kick after sending the ball over the bar. Adama Traore and Moussa Djenepo scored the next two for Mali, Ruben Belima and Carlos Akapo keeping the Djurtus in contest.
They were handed a massive boost when keeper Jesus Ovono saved Massadio Haidara’s penalty with the two sides now standing at par.
Jannick Buyla then stepped up to score Equatorial Guinea’s next. They were squarely handed the advantage when Hamari Traore missed for Mali, but they couldn’t win the tie when Pablo Ganet failed to score.
El Bilal Toure stepped up and scored, to send the game into sudden death.
ALiou Dieng and Mohamed Camara scored the first two for Mali while the Djurtus scored via Saul Coco and Ivan Salvador.
Santiago Eneme then stepped forward to score, but it was keeper Ovono who would win the game for them, saving off Falaye Sacko’s kick.