Posts Tagged ‘Match Report’
Japan have become the first team to qualify for World Cup 2014 in Brazil following a 1-1 draw against Australia in Saitama. The point means that the Blue Samurai are now guaranteed to finish in one of the top two spots in Asian Qualifying Group B and can relax ahead of their final match away to Iraq next week. Japan could still be mathematically be pipped for first place in the group by the Iraqis, who can join them on 14 points if they win their last three games, starting with a visit to Oman later today, but it’s an unlikely scenario and won’t worry the Japanese too much even if it happens.
Australia now occupy second spot in the group with seven points from six games, ahead of Jordan only on goal difference and a point clear of Oman, with the Iraqis a point further back but having a game in hand on the latter three teams. The Socceroos know that they now have qualification in their own hands with two home matches against Jordan and Iraq left on the agenda and two wins will definitely seal their place in the finals.
It was a tight match in Saitama with both teams reluctant to take too many risks in the knowledge that a draw would be a decent result. Neither manager made a change until the 72nd minute when Australia introduced Dario Vidosic and Japan left it until ten minutes from time before shuffling their pack, but soon after they did so they fell behind to a Tommy Oar goal and responded by bringing on Havenaar and Kiyotake to push for an equaliser. Their late pressure paid off as Matt McKay handled inside his own box and Keisuke Honda smashed home the resultant penalty in injury time.
César Farías’ Venezuela team picked up a second successive win in a friendly match against El Salvador at the Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano de Mérida in the west of the country. The 2-1 victory follows their surprise 1-0 success against Colombia in the World Cup qualifiers back in March and maintains momentum ahead of June’s qualifying matches in Bolivia and at home to Uruguay. El Salvador have now lost three friendly matches in a row, conceding ten goals and scoring only one as they warm up for next month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup in the United States.
There was a decent crowd of around 28,000 in Merida to witness La Vinotinto fight back from a goal behind to secure their win. Darwin Ceren had put the visitors ahead mid-way through the first half and they held on to their advantage until the fifty sixth minute when Cesar Gonzalez equalised from the penalty spot. Twelve minutes later there was another penalty and this time Josef Martinez was handed responsibility. He was equal to the task and slotted home to make it 2-1 to Venezuela and send the local fans home happy.
SKA-Energiya Khabarovsk continued their quest for promotion to Russia’s top division with a 1-1 draw at home to Torpedo Moskva in the early game from this weekend’s program of matches in Russia second flight. Evgeniy Lutsenko opened the scoring for the home side in the thirty second minute but they only held the lead for five minutes until midfielder Nikita Bezlikhotnov replied for Torpedo and nobody else was able to break the stalemate.
The draw leaves SKA-Energiya healthily placed in third position with fifty points and two games remaining. They look well set to secure a play-off spot. Torpedo on the other hand are down in thirteenth place and are not yet mathematically safe from relegation with three games remaining although their current three match unbeaten run has carried them to the verge of security.
SKA-Energiya’s two remaining fixtures are against Baltika, their direct rivals for a play-off spot, and Ufa, who have little left to play for, whereas Torpedo still have to face Sibir, struggling Khimki and Baltika.
Radovan Curcic’s Serbia team recorded a 2-0 win over Armenia at the Tsirion Athlítiko Kentro in Limassol, Cyprus. VFB Stuttgart midfielder Zdravko Kuzmanovic gave Serbia the lead after a quarter of an hour and Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic doubled the lead on the half hour mark. Vardan Minasyan’s Armenia were unable to muster anything in reply.
Serbia will now face hosts Cyprus tomorrow afternoon in the second of their back to back games, and Armenia have an immediate chance to respond to their defeat with a fixture against Canada later on tomorrow.
Bosnia-Herzegovina were denied a draw with Brazil by a late own goal from Glasgow Rangers’ Sasa Papac. Brazil took the lead early on through Real Madrid full-back Marcelo in the friendly match in front of over 17,000 fans at the AFG Arena in St Gallen, Switzerland. However, the lead didn’t last long as VFB Stuttgart’s new signing Vedad Ibisevic equalised in the 13th minute. The stalemate endured until injury time but Bosnia-Herzegovina couldn’t quite hold on until the final whistle as the unfortunate Papac put through his own goal.
Sunday 31st January 2010
Estadio 11 de Novembro, Luanda, Angola
Weather: 30c, wind 15kmph, chance of showers
Egypt 1 (Geddo 86)
Egypt: El Hadary, Al-Muhamadi, Goma’a, Fathy (Moatasem 89), Moawad (Abdel-Shafy 55), Ghaly, Said, Hassan, Hosni, Zidan, Motaeb (Geddo 70)
Ghana: Kingson, Inkoom, Vorsah, Addy, Sarpei, Agyemang Badu, Annan, Ayew, Asamoah, Gyan (Adiyah 87), Opoku (Addo 89)
Tournament top scorer and super sub par excellence Mohamed Nagy “Geddo” was the hero once again as he came off the bench to grab his fifth goal of the competition and secure a 1-0 win for defending champions Egypt against a hard-working but uninspired Ghana side. His late strike was the one moment of class that lit up an otherwise uneventful final.
Ghana kicked off the 27th African Cup of Nations final as underdogs against an Egypt team aiming to make it three successive triumphs. Egypt striker Emad Motaeb shook off a hamstring strain to make the starting line-up ahead of super sub and tournament top scorer Geddo. Ghana goalkeeper Richard Kingson played despite an injury that prevented him from taking his own goal kicks.
It was a low key start to the game, with both teams taking a long time to settle, perhaps due to the pressure of the occasion. The first goalscoring opportunity came from a set piece in the eighth minute. Egypt defender Fathy body checked Asamoah to concede a free-kick 30m from goal, but Gyan’s shot hit the wall. Egypt ‘keeper El Hadary misjudged the resultant corner presenting Ghana with a half chance but they couldn’ t capitalise on his error. A long range effort from Ahmed Hassan in the 13th minute was Egypt’s first goal attempt but didn’t come close to troubling the goalkeeper. He tried again five minutes later but didn’t come much closer. Asamoah showed him how to hit the target with his own fiercely stuck shot from distance midway through the first half, but it was comfortably saved by El Hadary.
Chances were few and far between in the first half and neither goalkeeper was properly tested. Egypt enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and dictated most of the play but weren’t allowed to get close enough to the Ghanaian goal to cause any real trouble. The Black Stars occasionally looked dangerous on the break but didn’t often get enough men forward in support of their attacks. Nobody could argue with the goalless scoreline at the interval and everybody was hoping for a bit more action in the second half.
There were no changes during the break, but there was at least an eventful start to the second period with a flurry of yellow cards and a dangerous free-kick from Asamoah Gyan. Opoku was booked for a horrific challenge on Al-Muhamadi that could have earned him a straight red, Moawad saw yellow for a deliberate handball and then Al-Muhamadi was cautioned for a revenge challenge on Opoku, which gave Gyan the dead ball chance. His shot was tipped over the bar by El-Hahadary. After 55 minutes Shehata made his first move, replacing Moawad with Zamalek full-back Mohamed Abdel-Shafy. Hossam Ghaly soon made his way into the referee’s book for a shirt pull which resulted in yet another unsuccessful long-range free kick attempt for Ghana.
Ghana enjoyed their best spell of the game early in the second half, playing much more positively than at any time in the first period, and as a result the game began to open up a bit with the forwards finding more space in which to work at both ends of the field. Egypt’s passing began to bear fruit and they started to create openings in the Ghana defence. Hassan claimed a penalty for a push in the back,but the referee waved play on and Ghana continued to favour shooting from outside the box over trying to work a clearer opening. In the 70th minute Shehata played his trump card, bringing on Geddo for Motaeb in the hope that the Al-Ittihad striker could score off the bench for the fifth time in the tournament.
However, Ghana were getting more and more on top and they created three good chances in six minutes with Rennes striker Asamoah Gyan at the heart of all their mest moves. He curled a shot just wide of the far post in the 74th minute, hit another free-kick in the 79th, which El-Hadary clumisly punched away for a corner and then played in Inkoom down the right who sent an inviting cross across the Egypt goalmouth but nobody could connect in the middle. It was totally against the run of play when that man Geddo did it again; Mohamed Nagy “Geddo” picked up the ball on the left, played a neat one two with Zidan taking him inside the Ghana box where he curled a delicate finish past Kingson and just inside the far post to create jubilant scenes on the Egypt bench.
Bizarrely, Gyan was replaced as Ghana desperately chased the game in the last few minutes but despite their pressure they weren’t able to break down the resolute Egyptian defence and the Pharaohs were crowned champions of Africa for the seventh time.
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.
2010 African Cup of Nations: Ghana 1-0 Nigeria: Black Stars make Super Eagles pay for missing chances
Kick-off: Thursday January 28, 16.00 GMT
Location: Estadio 11 de Novembro, Luanda, Angola
Ghana 1 (Gyan 20)
Ghana: Kingson – Inkoom, Vorsah, Addy, Sarpei – Ayew, Badu, Annan, Asamoah – Gyan, Opoku
Nigeria: Enyeama – Yusuf, Nwaneri, Shittu, Echiejele – Ayila, Mikel, Kaita – Obasi, Martins, Odemwingie
The first semi-final of the 2010 African Cup of Nations pitted West African rivals Nigeria and Ghana together for a place in the final in an encounter that was dominated by Nigeria in terms of chances. However, the Super Eagles were unable to translate their oppurtunities into goals, and Ghana after snatching a lead in the first-half, defended doggedly to frustrate their more experienced opponents.
Ghana were able to call on Rosenborg-midfielder Anthony Annan for the first time in the tournament at the heart of the team, with Dramane dropping to the bench to accommodate the change.
Nigeria were able to start Obafemi Martins for the first time in Angola, and he came in for the disappointing Yakubu. The availability of Martins almost paid immediate dividends when a ball was lofted into the Ghana penalty area, but just evaded the Wolfsburg-based striker, who had broken into the box.
Ghana get into their groove
The early opening suggested it might be an exciting encounter, but the game quickly settled into a cautious pattern, with neither side too keen to commit men forward. However, on 20 minutes Ghana stunned Nigeria by grabbing a goal from a set piece. A well delivered out-swinging cross from the Ghana left by Kwadwo Asamoah was met by the head of Asamoah Gyan to divert the ball into the net to make it 1-0 with the Nigerian defence left static.
Five minutes later and Gyan might have doubled Ghana’s lead when he side-footed a looping effort just over the bar. The ball just wouldn’t quite dip enough, but it certainly had Vincent Enyeama back-peddling nervously in the Nigerian goal.
Nigeria should have struck back on 27 minutes through Obafemi Martins. A shot from outside the area by Peter Odemwingie fell at the feet of Martins, who found himself in the way of the effort. The former Newcastle-forward turned on the ball in a flash, but with just the keeper to beat and from no more than 6 yards somehow managed to hit Kingson, the Ghanaian goalie.
The Super Eagles continued to push forward for the equaliser and Uwa Echiejele, the left-back for Nigeria, curled a wonderful ball to the far post with both Martins and Odemwigie waiting with intent. It was Odemwingie who got his head to the ball, but delivered his effort wide of the post to let Ghana off after some shabby defending.
Just before the interval Sani Kaita let fly with a long-range effort, which had a few Nigerian supporters out of their seats. The ball hit the stanchion and rippled the outside of the netting. Into injury time and Peter Odemwingie attempted an effort at the near post from a short corner, although should probably have squared the pass back to the waiting Martins in the middle.
Ghana after their goal just before the midpoint were pleased to just get into the break with their advantage intact. After suffering several injuries during the half, which forced them into a change up front and the goalkeeper Richard Kingson having some treatment, they started dropping deep and allowing Nigeria to dominate possession. Nigeria having created several presentable chances had been unable to take advantage of any of them, but their attacking performance was an improvement on their previous games at the 2010 African Cup of Nations.
Nigeria continued to take the game to Ghana in the second half, but it took nearly a quarter of an hour for them to create a genuine chance. Sani Keita chipped a ball forward, which was helped on by Mikel to the onrushing Martins. However, Martins was charged down by Richard Kingson, who made himself big to block the attempted volley. Shortly after, the architect of that chance Mikel should have done better with a shot from outside the area, but hit his curling attempt well-wide in the end.
The Black Stars finally managed an attempt in the second half on 64 minutes when midfielder Ageymang-Badu brought a good save out of Vincent Enyeama in the Nigerian goal at his near post with a low shot.
Nigeria pay the price for profligacy
The chances continued to mount up for Nigeria when a long ball over the top on 70 minutes couldn’t quite be controlled by Obafemi Martins. Perhaps rusty after not seeing too much action in the tournament so far the first touch just got away from Martins, and gave the covering Ghana defender Isaac Vorsah a chance to close him down.
Another outstanding Nigeria chance was passed up when recent arrival Yakubu couldn’t stab home from close range. Good work between Obasi and Echijele down the left worked in the Rennes left-back for a crossing chance. However, Echijele got too much on the pass into the middle, and the ball ricocheted off Yakubu’s left knee and behind.
Obafemi Martins’ pace continued to cause the Ghana defence problems when another ball over the top nearly set him away. Once again though, Martins’ control let him down, as the difficult and patchy surface caught him out as it had on several previous occasions.
Nigeria continued to press forward with increasing urgency as Ghana failed to hold onto the ball for any length of time, but they struggled to test the increasingly injury-hampered Richard Kingson with any regularity, and so the match was decided by the 20th minute goal in favour of Ghana.
The progress to the final for Ghana is pretty remarkable given the problems they have encountered on the way. However, for Nigeria they will be left to wander what might have been if they had been able to call on a fully match-fit Obafemi Martins and Yakubu for the game. They falter at the semi-final stage once again.
Kick-off: Monday, January 25, 19.30 GMT
Location: Estadio Alto da Chela, Lubango
Zambia: Mweene – Musonda, Sunzu, Himonde, Mbola – Nyirenda – C. Katongo, Njovu, F. Katongo – Mulenga, Chamanga
Nigeria: Enyeama – Yusuf, Shittu, Apam, Echowjele – Kaita, Mikel, Etuhu – Obasi, Yakubu, Odemwingie
The last quarter-final match of the 2010 African Cup of Nations kicked off with surprise Group D winners Zambia taking on one of the pre-tournament favourites Nigeria. Having named three successive unchanged teams, coach of Zambia Herve Renard was forced into two changes to account for suspensions with Hijani Himonde and William Njovu getting their first taste of the action in Angola.
For Nigeria, Everton’s centre-back Joseph Yobo was missing with a hamstring injury and Obafemi Martins was only fit enough for a place on the bench – that meant an unchanged starting XI from the team that overcame Mozambique 3-0 in the final group match, their best performance to date.
Nigeria started the match in confident fashion with Zambia, the lowest ranked country left in the tournament looking rather over-awed at the prospect of taking on the Super Eagles. However, whilst the Nigerians stroked the ball around confidently it took them until the quarter of an hour mark to bring Zambian goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene into action. Some next interchange play worked a half-opening for Dickson Etuhu. However, the Fulham-midfielder’s low clipped shot was comfortably claimed by Mweene.
The best move of the game came just before the 30-minute mark as Nigeria continued to press forward. A flowing move down the Nigerian right-flank saw a loose ball break towards Yakubu. The Everton-striker stroked an effort towards the goal but it was turned away by Mweene in the Zambian goal.
That move seemed to encourage Zambia forward, who looked jaded by comparison to their earlier bright performances. A deep ball to the far post was met firmly by the head of Chris Katongo but his attempt just missed the near post.
After spending most of the first half on the back-foot, Zambia should have taken the lead on 43 minutes when James Chamanga spurned a glorious chance to open the scoring. The Chinese-based forward failed to connect properly with a tempting ball rolled across the Nigerian six-yard box. Chamanga though rather dabbed at the ball and diverted it wide of the far post rather than really attacking the chance with the conviction of a striker certain he was going to score.
It had been a rather lacklustre opening to the game with Zambia not looking like the exciting side that had got to this stage against the odds, whilst Nigeria weren’t able to recreate the flowing attacking moves that had opened Mozambique up on several occasions in their previous match.
Zambia turn the tide
Initially after the interval the pattern of the game barely changed with Nigeria enjoying more of the ball, but the Zambians gradually started to look more threatening. Approaching the hour-mark and Felix Katongo slashed a shot wide of the near post after a good Zambian move down the right wing.
Although the onus was on Nigeria as the better-fancied side, their old problem of a lack of width was really troubling them. Zambia were quite content to defend narrow safe in the knowledge that the Super Eagles weren’t going to rip them apart from a wider position.
As the second half wore on, Zambia carved out two gilt-edged chances to score, and Nigeria could thank defender Yusuf Mohamed for keeping them in the tie, both chances coming from out-swinging corners from the Zambian right. The first Zambian chance fell to centre-back Hijani Himoonde, but his powerful downward header was swept clear from out of the goalmouth by Mohamed. Moments later and the same routine worked the opening for Jacob Mulenga, but the scorer of two goals for Zambia at the tournament was also frustrated by Mohamed on the line, who was well placed to stab the effort clear.
Undeterred Zambia kept pressing forward, and young left-back Emmanuel Mbola surged forward to deliver a wonderful ball for Christopher Katongo. The Arminia Bielefeld-forward sent his flying header just wide of the far post to give Nigeria another let off with five minutes of regular play still remaining.
Try as they might, Zambia simply couldn’t seem to find the opening, although their out-swinging corners from the right side taken by Felix Katongo continued to be a profitable route in terms of chances. After seeing his first corner cleared behind, Katongo went much deeper with his second consecutive cross with just a minute left on the clock. The ball landed plumb on the head of recent arrival Emmanuel Mayuka at the far post, but the Maccabi Tel-Aviv forward sent his effort wide.
That effort was to be the last of the match, and despite Zambia seizing the initiative, Nigeria remained in the tie despite riding their luck and completing two goal-line clearances.
Having been forced into some desperate defending during the second half, Nigeria came out of the blocks fast in the additional 30 minutes of extra-time. A ball was crossed into the waiting substitute Obafemi Martins, but the Wolfsburg forward screwed his effort wide of the target.
Nigerian fans hoping that the chance would mean a renaissance were to be disappointed as once again the more adventurous Zambians went searching for the goal that might win the encounter. The Copper Bullets forced a sequence of corners, but couldn’t force the quality of opening they managed in the second half.
If the first half of extra-time started promisingly for Nigeria the same can’t be said of the second, the opening stages of which saw the dismissal of Onyekachi Apam. The Nice-defender was already on a yellow card when he lunged into a tackle on Zambian forward Mayuka, and he was dismissed, to reduce Nigeria to ten for the remainder of the game.
Zambia immediately launched an attack, which resulted in a wonderful finger-tip save from Vincent Enyeama in the Nigerian goal to deny William Njovu from long-range. Moments later and Chris Katongo forced Enyeama to hang onto a ball into the Nigerian penalty area with Jacob Mulenga lurking close by.
After nearly a full 120 minutes of rather disappointing approach play, Nigeria very nearly crafted a wonderful opening right at the death. A craft chipped pass through by Mikel very nearly released Martins, but with the ball behind him, Martins very nearly managed to flick the ball into the Zambian goal.
With the game deadlocked at 0-0 the game went to penalties. After six perfect penalties and the score at 3-3, the first to falter was Thomas Nyirenda for Zambia. After an inexorable delay the centre midfielder looked nervous and a soft effort was beaten away by Enyeama. Peter Odemwigie exploited the failure for Nigeria by stepping up to the mark and slotting home to give the Super Eagles the advantage.
Remarkably after Zambian goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene struck home, it was left to his counterpart Vincent Enyeama to win the shoot-out. After pulling off a couple of good saves, he was the match-winner by keeping his head to score from the spot to win the shoot-out 5-4.
Zambia’s tournament ends on penalties, but they have more than impressed during their time in Angola. Nigeria meanwhile continue to stumble through the competition and will now meet Ghana in the semi-finals, the side that beat them in the quarter-finals in 2008.
African Cup of Nations 2010: Egypt 3-1Cameroon – Defensive errors dominate as Egypt ease through in extra-time
Kick-off: Monday, January 25th, 16.00 GMT
Location: Complexo da Sr. Da Graca, Benguela, Angola
Egypt: 3 A Hassan (37 & 95), Geddo (92)
Cameroon: 1 A Hasan (og, 26)
Egypt: El Hadary – Mohamady, Goma’a, Fathalla, Moawad – A Hassan, Fathi, Said, Hosni – Zidan, Moateb
Cameroon: Kameni – Geremi, N’Koulou, Chedjou, Bedimo – Song, Mandjeck, Eyong – Emana, Eto’o, Idrissou
The third quarter-final at the 2010 African Cup of Nations pitted Group C winners Egypt against Group D runners-up Cameroon in a repeat of the final from two years ago in which the Pharaohs’ ran out 1-0 winners.
It was a game that ebbed and flowed, and both sides had their chances to claim the spoils both within normal time and extra-time. However, it was defensive errors that ruled the game and decisively altered the outcome of the game, with those from Cameroon proving more costly at the start of extra-time.
Egypt having cruised through qualification had rested numerous players in their final group match against Benin and made several changes to that starting XI. Cameroon had gone through all sorts of agonies to get to this stage, but the team that took to the pitch was similar to the one that claimed a draw against Tunisia in their final match, although still posted three amendments.
A cagey start to the game with neither side too eager to attack in the early stages saw Cameroon force a sequence of corners, which eventually resulted in a long-range effort from recent Newcastle departure Geremi. The right-back collected the ball, but despite catching the effort on the full with his left-foot the attempt looped over the Egyptian goal.
It took Egypt until past the halfway point of the first-half to register a noteworthy attempt on goal. Mohamed Zidan curled a good free-kick into the Cameroon box, and with the Indomitable Lions back-line rooted to the spot left-back, Ahmed Al-Mohamady dived onto the header. However, Cameroon were given a huge let-off when he diverted the effort wide of the target.
Moments later and Cameroon made Egypt doubly rue their missed chance when they took the lead in most bizarre fashion. Achille Emana, who had taken a number of short in-swinging corners from the Cameroon left side, dropped one onto Ahmed Hassan’s head at the near post. The veteran Egyptian playmaker somehow managed to deflect the ball off the back of his head and into his own net to give Cameroon the advantage with 25 minutes played.
Egypt take control
The defending champions of the African Cup of Nations had an almost immediate reply to the Cameroon goal. A poor tackle by Samuel Eto’o, which should have been punished with at least a booking, was taken quickly on the halfway line by Egypt. Forward Emad Moateb reached quickest to the pass through, nicking it round Cameroon goalkeeper Carlos Kameni, but was unable to steady himself for the shot thanks to the pressure from Alexandre Song.
On 35 minutes veteran Egyptian midfielder Ahmed Hassan in his 170th appearance in the national shirt found redemption for his own goal ten minutes earlier with a long-range speculative effort from at least 35 yards out to equalise. Hassan let fly with a diagonal shot that seemed to deceive Kameni in the Cameroon goal. The Espanyol-keeper just didn’t get across his line quick enough to stop the effort, and somehow the ball sneaked past him and in at the far post to make it 1-1.
The second half could have started brilliantly for Egypt but Moateb wasted a good chance chance. What amounted to little more than a hopeful punt down the middle from goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary was seized upon by Moateb when Cameroon defender Aurelien Chedjou almost fatally let the ball bounce. Moateb was onto the loose ball in a flash, but a combination of Kameni and Chedjou managed to smother the chance.
A minute later and Zidan could have snatched the lead twice within two minutes for Egypt. First he picked up a pass down the left-hand channel and took the shot early which missed the goal at the near post when he could have advanced further before taking aim. Then just seconds later the Borussia Dortmund-forward dispossessed Chedjou just outside the Cameroon penalty area. Fortunately for Cameroon, Kameni was alert to the danger and managed to block the shot at his near post.
Cameroon find their feet
For all the early Egyptian pressure in the first ten minutes of the second half, Cameroon also could have retaken the lead on 55 minutes. A run from midfielder Georges Mandjeck was not tracked by Egypt, and the Kaiserslautern player sent a low spinning shot narrowly wide of the near post.
Just before the hour mark Eyong Enoh had another good sight of the Egyptian target from midfield when he picked up the ball in space through the middle. The Ajax-midfielder lashed another effort just over the target, as Cameroon started to come out of their shell after weathering something of an Egyptian barrage in the opening minutes of the second half.
Cameroon continued to test El-Hadary in the Egyptian goal from long range when Geremi side footed a powerful free-kick into his arms on the 70 minute-mark. On 78 minutes Cameroon danger-man Samuel Eto’o had his first shot on target in anger, again from outside the penalty area. The Inter Milan-striker lashed an effort towards goal, which bounced up into El-Hadary’s body for a comfortable save.
It was all one-way traffic for Cameroon, and Samuel Eto’o once again tested his luck from long range. Mohammadou Idrissou advanced down the left flank before cutting it back for Eto’o, however, the former Barcelona-man lashed an effort over the bar.
Despite looking like it was going to be Cameroon to claim a late winner, Egypt showed they took still possessed a threat when a raking diagonal pass found Moateb through the left-hand channel. However Cameroon had a huge let off, when the Egyptian forward could only find the side-netting with a shot at the near post, when arguably he should have gone across the goal with his attempt.
Ahmed Hassan could have been a late match winner for Egypt too, when he had a speculative effort which flew over the Cameroonian goal with two minutes already played in additional time but that was to be the final action in normal time and the game went to extra-time.
Egypt explode in extra-time
Having finished the second half in the ascendancy Cameroon started extra-time brightly when substitute Pierre Webo drove a shot in, which was comfortably claimed. However, it was Egypt who snatched the lead in the game with barely a minute played following the restart. Geremi played a suicidal back-pass towards Kameni, which he left horribly short, and midfielder Geddo nipped in to pinch the ball and slot it home between the goalkeeper’s legs to make it 2-1.
Egypt had their third and Ahmed Hassan his second goal just moments later in controversial circumstances for 3-1. Hassan smashed in a free-kick from the Egyptian left, which Kameni in the Cameroon goal crucially attempted to punch. The ball reared up, cannoned off the underside of the bar and bounced down. Replays showed the ball wasn’t even close to going over the line, but the goal stood after the assistant on the nearside gave it as a goal.
Whilst Cameroon will feel hard done by given the fact that the third goal should never have stood, both Egyptian efforts in extra-time could ultimately be put down to shocking defensive errors on the part of the Indomitable Lions.
Samuel Eto’o nearly went close to reducing arrears on 98 minutes when a corner-kick from the left, which was from the same side from which they had scored in the first half, just evaded the outstretched boot of the Cameroon forward.
Cameroon started to press with increasing desperation, and an Idrissou shot was deflected inches wide of the post. However, their task was made immeasurably harder when a long clearing punt was missed by Cameroon defender Chedjou. The Lens-player suddenly realising that Geddo had got in front of him to win the ball clean through on goal, decided to drag the Egyptian striker down, and inevitably saw a red card for his transgression.
The reduction to ten-men cost Cameroon any further chance of troubling Egypt, and it finished 3-1. Cameroon have arguably not got into their stride for the entire tournament, although they improved as it wore on, and this was denfitely their best performance out of the four games.
Egypt can thank a lucky decision for a crucial third to give them a two-goal cushion and turn the game their way after absorbing a lot of pressure. They are through to the semis and the dream of three consecutive victories at the African Cup of Nations remains alive.