African Cup of Nations – Favourites stunned by clinical Egypt
Eurosport – Thu, 07 Feb 23:13:00 2008
Amr Zaki scored twice to help defending champions Egypt to a stunning 4-1 win over favourites Ivory Coast in their African Nations Cup semi-final in Kumasi.
A compelling game saw Ahmed Fathi give Egypt an early lead before wantaway Zamalek hit man Zaki struck twice in five minutes just after the hour, with Lyon Abdul Kader Keita replying one minute after Zaki’s first goal.
Al-Ahly star Mohamed Aboutreika added a fourth in injury-time.
Egypt, who meet Cameroon in the final in Accra on February 10th, were also helped by an inspired performance from veteran goalkeeper Essam Al Hadari, the 35-year-old denying Chelsea striker Didier Drogba goals on no less than three occasions with the score still at 1-0.
The Pharaohs have now had the upper hand over the Elephants in their last three competitive outings, beating them on penalties in the 2006 final following a 4-2 group stage win in that same tournament.
Goalkeeping had some part to play in the result and one of Al Hadari’s saves was particularly outstanding when he somehow got down to parry a bullet, point-blank header from Drogba.
Ivory Coast were meanwhile forced to withdraw first choice keeper Boubacar Barry who, already regarded as a weak link, who was replaced by hapless shot-stopper Stephan Loboue.
The Greuther Fuerth reserve was culpable for Egypt’s third goal, a low drive by Zaki that he should have saved at a time when his team were threatening to equalise.
Possession was fairly even in a match that Egypt ultimately controlled, breaking up the more adventurous Ivory Coast’s play and slowing the pace down whenever they had the ball.
Captain Ahmed Hassan had returned to the side at the expense of Middlesbrough anchorman Mohamed Shawky, and the Anderlecht midfielder had a big role to play in dictating the tempo of a closely contested game.
Former Sheffield United utility man Fathi – who was lucky to stay on the pitch after catching Drogba with an elbow later in the first half – broke the deadlock when the Elephants failed to clear a corner, his shot taking a heavy deflection past Barry.
Ivory Coast pressed and pressed but Egypt always threatened on the break and Drogba – who was put through late in the first half but dilly-dallied before shooting weakly at Al Hadari’s chest – could not believe his luck when Egypt’s 2006 final penalty shoot-out hero made the save of the tournament so far on 49 minutes.
Egypt then doubled their lead through Zaki, who headed-in powerfully at the far post after an Ahmed Hassan corner, and while it was game on after Keita’s long-range screamer immediately afterwards, the match was put beyond Gerard Gili’s men by Zaki again, who drilled low past Loboue after an Egypt break.
Ivory Coast went all-out-attack but Egypt, bringing on Mohamed Zidan after his injury-enforced absence, looked even more dangerous on the counter and sealed the win when Aboutreika ghosted in to score his fourth of the tournament after good work from Zidan.