Abou-Gabal the hero again as Egypt reach final with shootout win over Cameroon

Ahram Online , Hatem Maher , Thursday 3 Feb 2022

Keeper Mohamed Abou-Gabal once again stole the show with two saves in the shootout as Egypt defeated hosts Cameroon 3-1 on penalties following a 0-0 draw in Yaounde to reach the African Cup of Nations final on Thursday.

Egypt s goalkeeper Mohamed Abogabal (C) celebrates with teammates after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 semi-final football match between Cameroon and Egypt at Stade d Olembe in Yaounde on February 3, 2022. AFP

Abou-Gabal, who started the tournament as an understudy to Mohamed El-Shennawi, guessed the right way on two occasions to block efforts from Harold Moukoudi and James Lea Siliki.

Substitute Clinton N'Jie then fire wide to waste Cameroon's fourth penalty following successful attempts from Egypt's Ahmed Zizo, Mohamed Abdel-Moneim and Mohanad Lasheen as the Pharaohs once again prevailed on penalties.

Abou-Gabal was also the hero when Egypt defeated Cote d'Ivoire in the shootout following another goalless draw in the round of 16, making the difference with a superb one-handed save after replacing the injured El-Shennawi with two minutes remaining before the end of regulation time.

Egypt edged closer to a record-extending eighth crown, and their first since 2010, but they face another tough clash against Senegal, who are making a second successive appearance in the final, on Sunday.

The intriguing clash will pit Liverpool stars Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane against each other in an anticipated duel.

Egypt looked worn out after playing an extra time for the third successive game but they came out on top following a largely physical affair, with their resolute defensive display restricting Cameroon to a few clear-cut chances.

Rookie defender Mohamed Abdel-Moneim rose to the occasion in the absence of the more experienced Ahmed Hegazi, who was injured in the quarter-final win over Morocco, after producing another solid display in the heart of the four-man backline.  

Five-time winners Cameroon missed out on the chance of closing the gap on record champions Egypt.    

Set-pieces threats

Egypt struggled to keep possession in a first half that Cameroon dominated, with Carlos Queiroz's men pegged back for long spells.

Although Egypt had the first effort when a Mohamed Salah shot went over the crossbar following a lay-off from left winger Omar Marmoush, Cameroon proved dangerous on set-pieces.

The hosts almost went ahead after 18 minutes when defender Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui leapt above two markers and headed against the upright following a corner.

The slippery surface at the Olembe Stadium made it hard for both sides to string passes together, with Egypt's repeated long balls, which were mostly intended for the isolated Salah, easily intercepted by a Cameroon backline that was rarely troubled.

Ngadeu-Ngadjui and Karl Toko Ekambi miscued a couple of shots when well-positioned to score as some sloppy marking from Egypt's defence could have cost them dear.

But Egypt tightened up at the back after the break, with Cameroon unable to mount threats as the match petered out.

Salah could have scored against the run of play from a rare Egypt chance on 56 minutes when he intercepted a poor back pass from Martin Hongla to break clear, but his attempt to round keeper Andre Onana was unsuccessful.

Egypt coach Queiroz was also dismissed for dissent just before the end of regulation time, leaving football director Wael Gomaa to convey his instructions. 

Chances remained at a premium and neither side could net a decisive winner in extra time, with Egypt settling the tie in their favour in the shootout.

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