Argentina’s captain Fernando Cavenaghi scored a 111th-minute golden-goal winner to send the holders through to the quarter-finals of UAE 2003 after they were given the run of their lives by an impressive Egyptian side at the Al Maktoum stadium in Dubai on Monday. The River Plate striker capped a sparkling performance with his second strike of the match just eight minutes from the end of extra-time. Earlier, his free kick had been wiped out by Rida Metwaly in a frantic and entertaining opening period.
It was a pulsating opening with both teams going at each other from the off. Argentina had the first chance as Marcelo Carrusca found space down the left but his dangerous cross just failed to find his striking colleagues (2).
Hosni Abd Rabo suddenly appeared and after a nice one-two the ball landed at the feet of Emad Motab, but after side-stepping Argentina’s replacement keeper Mariano Barbosa, the striker it his shot too high from a tight angle (3).
No sooner had the Egyptian fans sat down than they were back on their feet again. Ahmed Samir drilled a devastating shot from way out on the left, Barbosa spilled the effort to Mohamed Abdel Wahab who tucked it home from six yards. But through the deafening sound, the assistant referee had raised a flag for offside (5).
Faster to the ball, the Young Pharaohs were now well on top. Samir, having a storming opening, skipped past two more men down the left before crashing a shot into the side netting (11).
But the albiceleste, with a number of players performing in the Argentinian first division, showed all their experience to slow the game down. And it was the most experienced of them all, Fernando Cavenaghi, who struck the opening goal.
After taking seemingly forever to line up his shot, the River Plate striker bent the ball around the wall and, with onrushing players seemingly distracting goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy, into the far corner (1-0, 26).“Since he played with us in the South American championship, he (Cavenaghi) has developed into one of our most essential strikers,” said coach Hugo Tocalli later.
A minute later and Argentina almost doubled their lead. Cavenaghi, bursting down the left in acres of space, fed Walter Montillo but after taking the ball around Ekramy, the San Lorenzo midfielder shot wide from an acute angle (27).
Egypt piled forward with Abd Rabo instigating matters from the centre of the park but the breakthrough would not come. And they were almost caught at the other end.
Showing just why he is rated so highly, Cavenaghi once again got away from his man, Amir Azmy,but his skidding cross was awkwardly cleared from inside the six-yard box (40).
assan Shehata’s young men kept pushing forward, though, and this time they got their deserved equaliser. Barbosa got his hand to the ball as Motab tried to take it round him but it broke to Rida Metwaly to confidently slot home and spark off emotional scenes in the crowd (1-1, 41).
It was a quieter beginning to the second period – but not for long.
Slightly subdued up until now, German Herrera beat his man down the right before firing in his centre towards Cavenaghi, who met the ball brilliantly at the near post, but his first time volley whistled just wide.
A downward header from Motab flashed wide (52) but the helter-skelter pace gradually began to take its toll and the game slowed considerably as the world champions began asserting their authority on the match.
And they had a great chance to go ahead when the edgy Ekramy dropped a cross. First Cavenaghi and then Herrera flung themselves at the loose ball but in the scramble the ball trickled agonisingly wide (80).
With time running out, the livewire Cavenaghi almost won it but after a sweet turn his effort flew well over (87). With their speed and industry, the Young Pharaohs were still posing problems and, in time added on, they came close to bring the house down as Motab crashed a shot high and wide after a neat build-up.
Into extra-time, a goal now would prove the golden matchwinner. And, typifiying the game, both sides were clearly trying as the ball raced from end of the pitch to the other with a hooked crowd shouting their ooohs and aaahs on cue.
Just as it looked as if it was going to penalties, Javier Mascherano played Cavenaghi through. The Argentinian captain’s first effort was saved by Ekramy but he picked himself up to chip the ball just over the line as the defenders desperately raced back to clear. The clock stopped at 111 minutes and 22 seconds.
“We missed the luck,” lamented Shehata. “We had the chances but we couldn’t capitalise in the first half. At the end we were playing for penalties and they caught us out. But I’m proud of my boys, we played four good games.”
“We didn’t play the way we can in the first half; they put us under a lot of pressure and it made us nervous,” added Tocalli. “But we were better after the break and got that little bit of luck necessary to win any match. We will see a better Argentina in the next match.”