Kahraba scores late winner as Egypt end Morocco hoodoo to reach semis

Hatem Maher , Sunday 29 Jan 2017,
Egypt's midfielder Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim (L) celebrates with Egypt's midfielder Mahmoud Hassan after scoring 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

After a 31-year wait, Egypt finally laid their Moroccan ghosts to rest when Mahmoud Kahraba shocked the Atlas Lions with a late winner to lift his side to the African Cup of Nations semi-final on Sunday.

The Zamalek-bound winger, who is on loan at Saudi side Ittihad, hooked the ball home from close range after a corner with two minutes remaining as Egypt secured a typical smash-and-grab victory to book a last-four berth on their first Nations Cup appearance since lifting the last of their record seven trophies in 2010.

The defeat will be hard to swallow for Morocco, who spurned several goal-scoring chances in an exciting second half, which stood in stark contrast to a dour first period.

Egypt last beat Morocco at the 1986 Nations Cup when they won 1-0 to reach the tournament's final on home soil.

Since then, Egypt have met Morocco 12 times, drawing 8 matches and losing four. They could not even beat Morocco when they won the Nations Cup in 1998 and 2006, losing 1-0 and drawing 0-0 respectively.

The Pharaohs set up a semi-final meeting with Burkina Faso, who beat Tunisia 2-0 on Saturday, in Libreville on Wednesday.

The Port Gentil pitch was still in a terrible state, but having been familiar with the poor grass during their group stage games, Egypt seemed comfortable dealing with the unplayable surface.

They remain the only side at the tournament not to concede any goals, thanks to a watertight defence marshaled by towering duo Ahmed Hegazy and Ali Gabr.

High pressure

Karim Hafez, who plays for French club Lens, started as a left-back after the injured Mohamed Abdel-Shafi failed to recover in time, with natural right-back Ahmed Fathi playing alongside Tarek Hamed in the heart of midfield after Arsenal's Mohamed Elneny was also injured.

Contrary to the three group-stage matches, Egypt took the game to Morocco in the first half, with Herve Renard's men adopting a cautious approach but still pressuring their opponents high up the pitch in a cagey affair.

Chances were at a premium but Egypt went close once when a cross from Hull City's lively right-back Ahmed Elmohamady eluded the defence and found Mahmoud Trezeguet at the far post, with the Excel Mouscron man forcing a fine stop from the keeper with a half volley.

Mohamed Salah hardly made use of his pace against a well-drilled defence and Egypt's cause was not helped when lone striker Marwan Mohsen picked up an injury shortly before the break, making way for Sporting Braga frontman Ahmed Kouka in an unscripted substitution.

Morocco's only chance came on 34 minutes when the unmarked Romain Saiss could not connect with a low cross with the goal at his mercy. The ball still rebounded into his path but his header went over the bar.

Goal-scoring chances

The second half was a much livelier affair, with both sides squandering gilt-edged opportunities although Morocco had the lion's share after a period of sustained pressure.

Egypt needed a timely interception from veteran goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary to claw away a low cross from Nabil Dirar just before it reaches Aziz Bouhaddouz while a long-range piledriver from Mbark Boussoufa rattled the bar.

Bouhaddouz miscued another low cross from five yards out while at the other end Salah was unlucky not to break the deadlock on two occasions.

He robbed Manuel Da Costa to go clear early in the second half but his right-foot volley was thwarted by a brilliant one-handed save from Munir Mohamedi.

With 13 minutes remaining, a free-kick maneuver saw El-Said chip the ball to the unmarked Salah whose bicycle effort was also denied by Mohamedi.

Both sides traded blows in a high tempo finale until Kahraba settled the tie in Egypt's favour with a close-range volley after his header from a corner deflected off teammate Ahmed Kouka and fell into his path again.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)


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