Sobhi fires extra-time winner as Egypt win U23 Nations Cup

Hatem Maher , Friday 22 Nov 2019

The in-form winger scores and provides an assist as Egypt beat Cote d'Ivoire 2-1 to win the U23 African Cup of Nations in Cairo on Friday

Ramadan Sobhi
Soccer Football - Africa Under 23 Cup of Nations - Final - Egypt U23 v Ivory Coast U23 - Cairo International Stadium, Cairo, Egypt - November 22, 2019 Egypt's Ramadan Sobhi celebrates scoring their second goal (Reuters)

Irrepressible Ramadan Sobhi scored an extra-time winner as Egypt fended off a spirited fight-back from Cote d'Ivoire to win 2-1 and clinch the U23 African Cup of Nations title for the first time on Friday.

The dazzling schemer, who toyed with his challengers all night, set up a first-half opener for Karim El-Eraqi and was on target himself in the second half of extra time to spark wild celebrations among the sell-out crowd at Cairo's International Stadium.

In between, Cote d'Ivoire's never-say-attitude saw them snatch a late equaliser, thanks to a clinical finish from substitute Aboubacar Doumbia at the death, forcing an extra time.

Sobhi, who is on loan at Cairo giants Ahly from English second-division side Huddersfield Town, had the last word in the 114th minute, burying home a rebound after a low shot from substitute Ahmed Rayyan was parried into his path.

Shedding tears of joy, he tracked back in the dying minutes to carry out his defensive duties, making some passionate tackles to ensure there was no repeat of any concentration lapses.

The triumph moves some way towards easing the disappointment of the national senior team's embarrassing Nations Cup campaign a few months ago, also on home soil, when they suffered a last-16 exit at the hands of South Africa.

Egypt, Cote d'Ivoire and third-placed South Africa will represent Africa at next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Egyptian pressure

Cote d'Ivoire sat back for the majority of the first half to soak up pressure from Egypt, defending doggedly and closing down spaces.

Egypt probed the backline for long but to little effect, although they wasted a chance to go ahead after 19 minutes when keeper Ira Tape could only push a low cross from El-Eraki into the path of striker Mostafa Mohamed, whose volley was blocked by a defender.

The breakthrough came after a superb piece of individual skill from Sobhi, Egypt's standout performer who tormented the Ivorian defence.

He got the better of Koffi Dakoi on the left and pulled the ball back to the onrushing El-Eraqi, who made no mistake with a first-time low shot that went past the stranded Tape.

Cote d'Ivoire grew bolder after falling behind, with Hamed Traore unsettling the defence with some nifty footwork.

Clear-cut chances were hard to come by, although a cunning, angled free kick from Silas Gnaka hit the post just before the half-time whistle.

Egypt eased off in the second half, giving Cote d'Ivoire some breathing space, which they made the most of.

Hamed Traore, lurking in the area, almost brought them level on 71 minutes when a deft through pass found him unmarked but his shot on the turn missed the target.

Doumbia made amends just one minute from time, side-footing home a low cross after a neat interchange between Zie Ouattara and Traore on the right.   

With Egypt lacking cutting edge after coach Shawky Gharib opted to take off Mostafa Mohamed, the tournament's top scorer with four goals, Cote d'Ivoire were relatively the better side until striker Ahmed Rayyan was introduced in the 109th minute.

With three minutes remaining, Rayyan skipped past his challenger on the edge of the area and fired a low shot that the keeper failed to hold, leaving Sobhi with an easy finish.

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