Egypt progress thanks to late winner
Africa Cup of Nations, Quarter-finals, Stade de Port-Gentil - Egypt 1 (Kahraba) Morocco 0
Morocco lit up Port-Gentil with a superb second-half performance, but after failing to take their chances were punished by a late goal from the Egyptian substitute Mahmoud Kahraba.
Egypt now play Burkina Faso in the semi-finals; hopefully that match will be equally as thrilling as this one.
The first half saw a miserable excuse for a football match, the disgraceful pitch sabotaging any attempts at passing and both sides apparently too scared of losing to take any risks.
But things improved significantly after the break, Morocco pummelling Egypt in midfield and on the flanks, creating a succession of chances and half-chances, none of which they were able to take; Mbark Boussoufa's long-range curler on 55 minutes was the closest they came.
As extra-tie drew nearer, Egypt began to assert themselves, and after Mohammed Salah came close following an ingenious free-kick plan, they won a corner down the left.
So Salah then swerved the ball in, and when Kahraba's flick-on came back to him off Ahmed Hassan, he adjusted his body to hook home from close range.
The Moroccans were distraught, and with good reason, but have only themselves to blame - they did not make their ascendancy count.
As for Egypt, they are still to concede a goal in the competition, and though they have scored only three, their resoluteness may yet see them celebrating this time next week.
Should the game have been played at Port-Gentil? The Cup of Nations should showcase all that is good about African football, and though there was plenty to celebrate in a breathless second half, too much of too many games has been compromised by a pitch that would shame a Sunday league. in the first instance, it is for Caf to ensure that conditions are better, but in the second, to act if they are not.
Egypt's players celebrate a goal during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final football match between Egypt and Morocco in Port-Gentil on January 29, 2017.AFP
MAN OF THE MATCH
Faycal Fajr (Morocco) Nadil Dirar and Mbark Boussoufa were also excellent, but Fajr was the bravest and most inventive player on the pitch.
Morocco: El Kajoui 6, Mendyl 7, Da Costa 7, Benatia 7, Dirar 8, Saiss 5, Boussoufa 8, El Ahamadi 6, Fajr 8, Bouhaddouz 5, En-Nesyri 5. Subs: El Kaddouri 6, Alioui 6.
Aziz Bouhaddouz (Maroc-Egypte)AFP
15’ - Elmohamady megs El-Nesyri, tries the same on Dirar, and wins the consolation prize of a free-kick. Egypt use it to get the ball downfield, cross from the right, and eventually Elmohamady find Trezeguet at the back post, once two defenders have missed their headers. He takes lines it all up it drops and thrashes a low volley from an acute angle which El Kajoui saves with his shins. Decent effort.
34’ - Da Costa fights his way around Fathi, stretching to send over a cross as the ball runs away from him. But, in the middle, Saiss misses his kick, then when it bounces up for him off Hegazy, flicks a header against the bar. 49’ - Ah, Salah! He's here! He bundles through a pair of challenges down the right as the ball bounces along, then lashes a shot from an acute-ish angle straight at El Kajoui.
55’ - Great little spell from Morocco, Boussoufa now taking possession 30 yards out amd whipping a curler hard - it beats El Hadary, but cannons the bar. What an effort! Egypt then break and Trezeguet streaks down the left, finding himself on the floor after a challenge from Dirar. He wants a penalty, but nothing doing. So Morocco go down the left, Mendyl crosses, and Bouhaddouz heads just over the bar. Great stuff! This is much better!
60’ - This is all Morocco now, and a crossfield ball from left to right finds Fjar, who immediately laces a low cross that Bouhaddouz misses entirely! Elmohamady was in attendance, but he barely made an effort to interject! Egypt are still to concede a goal in the competition, but it's got increasingly little to do with them. 63' - Egypt have to do something to reverse the flow of things, so remove a right-back, Hafez, and insert an attacking midfielder, Kahraba.
Egypt's defender Ahmed Hegazy (C) jumps for a header in an attempt to score during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final football match between Egypt and Morocco in Port-Gentil on January 29, 2017.AFP
76’ - But what's this? Egypt win a free-kick 25 yards from goal, marginally left of centre, and El Said stands earnestly behind it. And what brilliance he produces, dinking over the wall as Salah, unmarked, spins and volleys with the outside of his left foot. But El Kajoui is equal to him, beating clear with a strong arm.
88’ - OHHHHHHH GOAAAAAAAAL! Egypt 1-0 Morocco (Kahraba) Salah swings the corner into the near post, where Kahraba flicks on, only for the ball to hit Ahmed Hasan and allow him to contort into a hook, sending the ball past El Kajoui! That is absolute robbery and just classic, classic football.
Morocco had 15 shots to Egypt's six. So what?