Legendary keeper Hadary lifts Egypt to final after shootout win

Hatem Maher , Wednesday 1 Feb 2017,
African Cup of Nations - Semi Finals - Burkina Faso v Egypt- Stade de l'Amitie - Libreville, Gabon - 1/2/17 Egypt's Essam El-Hadary celebrates their first goal Reuters

Veteran goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary set a new record and saved two spot kicks as record winners Egypt rode their luck to reach the African Cup of Nations final with a 4-3 shootout win over a superb Burkina Faso side after a 1-1 draw on Wednesday.

The 44-year-old, still defying his age, produced two brilliant one-handed saves to block penalties from his Burkina counterpart Herve Koffi and Ajax Amsterdam's on-loan forward Bertrand Traore.

Egypt fell behind in the shootout when their first effort from Abdallah El-Said was denied by the post after Koffi got a hand to it, but Hadary recalled memories of the 2006 final shootout victory over the Ivory Coast, when he was also Egypt's hero after blocking two penalties from Didier Drogba and Bakari Kone, to lift his team to the Nations Cup final.  

The Pharaohs, who have seven titles under their belt, lost once in six final appearances in the Nations Cup - a defeat by Ethiopia in 1962. 

They will face either Ghana or Cameroon who clash in the other semi-final game on Thursday.

Hadary, who plays for Wadi Degla in the Egyptian Premier League, also set a record for the longest run without conceding a goal in the Nations Cup, keeping a clean sheet for 675 minutes to surpass former Cameroon keeper Alioum Boukar (643 minutes).

He also became the oldest player to appear in the tournament when he replaced Ahmed El-Shennawi in the opening 0-0 draw with Mali after the Zamalek keeper sustained an injury. 

Egypt scored against the run of play five minutes past the hour mark when Mohamed Salah's delightful curling shot left Koffi with no chance but leaked their first goal of the tournament when Aristide Bance made the most of a defensive lapse to restore parity a few minutes later.

Burkina Faso were the livelier side but faced stiff resistance from Hadary and his dogged defence as Egypt remained unbeaten in eight matches against the Stallions.

Typical fashion

In typical fashion, Egypt sat back to soak up pressure as Burkina pushed forward in the early stages, trying to exploit any gaps in a watertight defence.

Zamalek's Ibrahim Salah, who made his first start to take Mohamed Elneny's place in the heart of midfield, struggled to confront a wave of Burkinabe attacks although clear-cut chances were scarce at both ends.

Burkina focused on finding spaces on the left flank, where Egypt's right-back Ahmed Elmohamady was barely given any defensive support from Mohamed Salah.

Lone striker Mahmoud Kahraba, who replaced injured duo Marwan Mohsen and Ahmed Kouka, was hardly fed as Egypt's deep-lying forwards repeatedly drifted back to close down spaces when Burkina had possession.

Egypt's Hadary palmed away a shot from Blati Toure after eight minutes, making up for a rare error that saw him push a tame cross into the path of the Cyprus-based midfielder.

At the other end, Egypt went close when left winger Mahmoud Trezeguet cut inside to fire a curling shot that narrowly missed the target from the edge of the area.

Kahraba's bouncing shot was also thwarted by keeper Herve Koffi shortly before the break but Burkina put Egypt under relentless pressure in the second half, laying siege to their area.

Prejuce Nakoulma caused Egypt's defenders all sorts of problems with his darting runs down both flanks but Hadary was on alert to clear numerous crosses.

But for all Burkina's dominance, Egypt scored from a rare foray forward following an intricate passing move on 65 minutes, with Kahraba laying off the ball to Salah on the edge of the area to curl a left-footer into the top corner of the net.

Celebrations were short-lived, however, as Bance neatly controlled a Razack Traore that eluded the disappointing Ibrahim Salah to fire in a first-timer in the 73rd minute.

Egypt survived a barrage of attacks in the dying minutes, with Hadary the rescuer on several occasions, as the match went into extra time where both sides looked jaded, struggling to string passes together.

All the action came in the shootout, with former Ahly and Zamalek guardian Hadary denying Koffi and Burkina's fifth spot kick from Traore to spark wild celebrations on the pitch.  

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