Egypt surrender lead as Cameroon win fifth Nations Cup title

Hatem Maher , Sunday 5 Feb 2017,
Cameroon's forward Benjamin Moukandjo (L) and Cameroon's defender Nicolas Nkoulou hold up the trophy after beating Egypt 2-1 to win the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations final football match between Egypt and Cameroon at the Stade de l'Amitie Sino-Gabonaise in Libreville on February 5, 2017 AFP

Egypt missed out on winning a record-extending eighth Nations Cup title after throwing away a first-half lead to allow Cameroon to lift their first trophy since 2002 with a late goal from substitute Vincent Aboubakar in Libreville on Sunday. 

Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny, restored to the starting line-up after recovering from injury, finished off a superb three-man move to fire home from a tight angle and give Egypt the lead midway through the first half.

Cameroon came on with all guns blazing in the second period, launching a barrage of attacks that resulted in a 58th-minute headed goal from substitute Nicolas Nkoulou, who replaced injured defender Adolphe Teikeu in the first half, and another strike from Aboubakar following a brilliant individual effort.

Aboubakar's goal with three minutes remaining was hard to swallow for an Egypt side who looked close to winning the Nations Cup on their first appearance since clinching the last of their record seven titles in 2010.

Egypt looked jaded in the latter stages, struggling to contain Cameroon's pacy forwards who looked fresher when it mattered most. They were also dearly affected by a number of injuries which hit some key players, including left-back Mohamed Abdel-Shafi and two strikers in Marwan Mohsen and Ahmed Kouka.

Argentinean coach Hector Cuper failed to end a final jinx that saw him lose five domestic and continental finals with Spain's Mallorca and Valencia and Greek club Aris Thessaloniki.

Cameroon, who beat Egypt in the quarter finals when they last won the Nations Cup in 2002, are now two titles short of the Pharaohs' record and will play at the FIFA Confederations Cup, which takes place in Russia from 17 June to 2 July.  

No recognized striker

Egypt played without a recognized striker after Ahly's Mohsen and Sporting Braga's Kouka were ruled out because of injury; with winger Mahmoud Kahraba also out due to suspension.

On paper, Amr Warda was deployed as a lone frontman but the dynamism of the attacking quartet saw the Greek-based winger repeatedly switch positions with Mohamed Salah, who enjoyed some smooth rides down the right.

Cameroon appeared a pale shadow of the team who kept Ghana on their toes with a mesmerizing attacking semi-final display, with Egypt's compact midfield and defence comfortably dealing with their tame efforts.

At the other end, some intricate passing moves left Cameroon's defenders chasing shadows.

Playmaker Abdallah El-Said could have put Egypt ahead as early as the second minute when he was found unmarked by a deft one-touch pass from Salah but his low shot from inside the area was too weak to trouble goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa.

But Egypt made amends following another flowing three-man move on 22 minutes.

Elneny fed Warda on the right before ghosting into the area in anticipation of a return pass. Warda played the ball back to Salah, who threaded a fine pass to the unmarked Elneny to beat Ondoa with a powerful shot from an acute angle that beat him at the near post.

Cameroon were a completely different side in a second half they dominated, closely marking Salah and launching repeated raids down both flanks.

Coach Hugo Broos moved Christian Bassogog to the left and the tactical switch proved fruitful, with the Danish-based winger causing constant menace with his trickery.

It was from this flank that Cameroon restored parity in the 58th minute when Nkoulou outjumped central defender Ahmed Hegazy to power a firm header past Essam El-Hadary following a left-wing cross from Benjamin Moukandjo.

The Indomitable Lions threatened Egypt every time they launched a counter attack as fatigue took toll on their opponents, notching an invaluable winner three minutes from time.

Besiktas striker Aboubakar controlled a long ball on the edge of the area, lifted the ball over defender Ali Gabr and rifled a bouncing volley into the corner of the net to break Egypt's hearts.  


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