African Cup of Nations – Egypt thrash eight-man Algeria
Egypt kept alive their hopes of winning a third straight African Nations Cup title with a 4-0 semi-final victory over North African rivals Algeria, who had three players sent off.
Egypt opened the scoring in the first half from the penalty spot through Hosny Abd Rabou after Rafik Halliche was penalised for a foul on Emad Motaeb that saw the defender shown a second yellow card.
Substitute Mohamed Abdel-Shafy made it 3-0 with a neat finish moments after coming off the bench before keeper Fawzi Chaouchi, who was lucky not to be sent off earlier in the game when he appeared to aim a head-butt at the referee, became the third player to be sent off for a wild swing at Mohamed Nagy Gedo.
Gedo, a second-half super-sub all tournament, rounded off the scoring deep in injury time to complete the rout with his fourth goal in the Cup, making him top scorer after a meteoric rise from obscurity.
Egypt came into the game hell-bent on revenge having been beaten by their opponents in a one-off World Cup qualification play-off in November.
That game served to stoke the flames of an already heated antipathy between these two sides that was clearly visible in the opening exchanges.
Egypt’s opener was swathed in controversy when it arrived nine minutes before half-time.
Halliche looked like he had made a well-timed tackle on Egypt forward Motaeb as he bore down on goal but referee Bonaventure Coffi Codjia disagreed and pointed to the spot.
Replays showed the decision to be correct, and Codjia showed Halliche a second yellow card, with the first harshly awarded for a collision with Egypt keeper Essam El-Hadary.
Hosny stepped up to side-foot the penalty into the back of the net but not before seeming to stop during his run up, which visibly angered Chaouchi.
He took his protest to the referee and squared up to the official appearing to aim what looked like a head-butt at him.
Chaouchi was eventually dragged away by teammates and unbelievably was only cautioned.
But Algeria’s punishment continued into the second half as Egypt doubled their advantage through Borussian Dortmund striker Zidan, who twisted and turned on the edge of the area before planting a glorious finish into the top corner.
Belhadj was red-carded minutes later for a vicious two-footed challenge on Al-Muhammadi that effectively ended the clash as a competitive spectacle and may have ended his World Cup – a CAF ban for dangerous play is likely to be extended into the tournament in South Africa in June.
The scoring continued with Egypt increasing their lead further when Zamalek wing-back Abdel-Shafy came off the bench to make an instant impact, as he buried a neat pass from Zidan past Chaouchi from a tight angle.
Algeria’s discipline was in tatters at this point and Chaouchi finally picked up the red card his first-half head-butt on the referee merited, shown his second caution with four minutes remaining for a wild swing of the boot at substitute Gedo.
The Ittihad Alexandria midfielder, a relative unknown before scoring on his debut against Mali on the eve of the Cup, completed the scoring in stoppage time with a neat finish under the keeper.
The holders will now face Ghana in the final on Sunday.
African Cup of Nations: Watch the final between Egypt and Ghana on Sunday from 3.45pm LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player