Wednesday January 28
Complexo da Sr. Graca, Benguela, Angola
Algeria 0: Halliche sent off (38), Belhadj s/o (69), Chaouchi s/o (86)
Egypt 4: Hosni (pen 39), Zidan (65), Abdel-Shafy (79), Gedo (94)
Algeria: Chaouchi, Belhadj, Halliche, Bougherra, Yahia, Yebda, Ziani, Meghni (Laifaoui 67), Mansouri, Matmour (Abdoun 75), Ghezzal (Zemmamouche 88)
Egypt: El Hadary, Al-Muhamadi, Goma’a, Fathallah (Nagy Gedo 59), Moawad (Abdel-Shafy 79), Fathy, Hassan, Hosni, Said, Zidan, Motaeb (Ghaly 50)
Egypt gained revenge over Algeria for their World Cup qualification play-off defeat with a crushing 4-0 victory in an eventful game in Benguela. The evening almost descended into farce as the Algerians finished the game with only eight players on the park as they lost their cool in frustration at the scoreline and some controversial refereeing decisions.
The first half got off to a slow start, with neither team wanting to take any risks early on. It was a tight and cagey affair; chances were few and far between and neither team seemed able or willing to take the initiative. After twenty minutes, possession of the ball had been split fifty-fifty and neither goal had been seriously threatened. A good move by Egypt conjured the first real chance of the game, midway through the first half when Zidan latched on to a through ball and squared it for Motaeb on the edge of the box. However, the Al-Ahly striker’s curling shot was well saved by Chaouchi in the Algerian goal.
The main talking points of the first 45 minutes all occurred in the final ten, beginning with a dreadful mistake by Algeria defender Rafik Halliche. He attempted to cut out a long ball forward but miscued it horribly sending Motaeb through on goal. Halliche gave chase in a desperate attempt to make amends and gained enough ground on the striker to make a challenge inside his own penalty area but failed to connect with the ball and conceded a penalty, for which he was eventually awarded a second yellow card. Frankly it could easily have been a straight red seeing as Motaeb was through on goal, but given that the official elected to show yellow, the sending off can be seen as harsh because Halliche’s first booking was a joke. He was penalised simply for jumping near the Egypt goalkeeper.
The penalty itself was no less controversial. Hosni paused in his run up just before striking the ball past Chaouchi to make it 1-0 and angry scenes ensued with the Algerian ‘keeper protesting vehemently to the referee. Indeed, he appeared to try and headbutt the official and had to be pushed away by team mates, escaping with only a booking. When everyone finally calmed down, the Algerians were able to reorganise their defence and see out the remaining few minutes until half time.
Egypt began to make their numerical advantage tell early in the second half as they enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and started to create openings. They suffered a small setback when Motaeb limped off in the 50th minute to be replaced by Hossam Ghaly and they lost a bit of momentum as a result. Algeria’s best hope of getting back into the game seemed to be from a set piece and they duly got one on the edge of the box down their left flank in the 61st minute. Yebda fired a powerful shot towards the top left corner of the Egypt goal but El Hadary was equal to it.
Moments later, Egypt doubled their advantage with a fine solo goal from Mohamed Zidan. The Borussia Dortmund striker turned a couple of defenders inside out before curling a shot into the net from the edge of the box. Any remaining Algerian hopes were all but extinguished in the 69th minute when defender Nadir Belhadj was rightly sent off for a shocking and dangerous tackle on Al Muhammadi. From then on the Egyptians had the time and space to toy with their tired opponents and make them chase the ball around the midfield areas. It was becoming a question of how many more could they score as they looked to gain revenge for their World Cup exit.
Hassan had a good chance to get the third before it finally came in the 79th minute following more good work by Zidan, who slipped the ball through to substitute Abdel-Shafy,who scored with his first touch from a tight angle. There was time for yet more drama in the 86th minute when Algeria received their third red card, this time for goalkeeper Faouzi Chaouchi, who took a clumsy kick at Gedo when the game had already been stopped for offside. Egypt added a scrappy fourth through Gedo in the last minute of injury time to wrap things up. They will be savouring a memorable victory and looking forward to Sunday’s final. Algeria will be worrying about how many World Cup games their three red card recipients may miss through suspensions.