Egypt down Cameroon in extra time

Aided by a brace from skipper Ahmed Hassan, Egypt defeated 10-man Cameroon 3-1 after extra-time in an Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final match here on Monday.

Egypt's prize is a mouth-watering last-four showdown on Thursday against bitter rivals Algeria, who pipped the Egyptians to a FIFA World Cup™ ticket in dramatic circumstances in November. The Pharaohs thus improved to 17 matches their unbeaten run in the tournament and also extended their five-year superiority over the Indomitable Lions.

Egypt assistant coach Shawki Gharib saluted Cameroon for pushing his team all the way, while defending the performance of South African referee Jerome Damon. "Cameroon are a great team and they pushed us very hard," said Gharib. "We, on our own part, played very well and knew what we needed to do to win this match. However, a match is all about 90 minutes and there are no games without mistakes, but overall the referee was fair to both teams.

Cameroon, who saw defender Aurelien Chedjou red carded in the 112th minute for a professional foul on Mohamed Nagy, opened the scoring in the 26th minute courtesy of an own goal by Hassan, winning an African record 170th cap. Hassan got the slightest touch with his head on an Achille Emana corner at the near post as it sailed into the net.

Hassan turned from villain to hero in the 37th minute when he caught goalkeeper Carlos Kameni napping with a dipping shot from over 35 yards, which bounced in front of the Cameroon goalkeeper before resting at the back of the net to draw the champions level. A faulty back pass two minutes into extra-time by Geremi Njitap found super sub Mohamed 'Gedo' Nagy, who slotted home between Kameni's legs to give Egypt the lead in this pulsating encounter.

The defending champions increased their lead on 95 minutes when a curling free-kick by Hassan was adjudged to have been palmed beyond the goalline by Kameni. Television replays showed that the ball did not cross the line.

Man of the hour Hassan was unperturbed by the controversy. "I'm very happy because we won today," he said. "We played a very good match, and I'm thrilled to score two goals and also with the record of 170 appearances."

In the 110th minute, Nagy dashed free through the Cameroon defence but Kameni made a brave save. The game appeared to slip away for the Lions of Cameroon when Chedjou was sent off moments later Cameroon fought to reduce the deficit in the second half of extra-time but Egypt kept their shape to stay on course for an unprecedented seventh Nations Cup title.

From the kick-off, Cameroon took the game to their opponents, forcing five corners in the first 11 minutes, while Egypt's first attack came only after six minutes when Ahmed Fathi had a shot. Cameroon continued to dictate the pace of this contest and more than deserved their lead when it came in the 25th minute.

Six minutes after their equaliser, Hosny Abdrabou would have given Egypt the lead but he failed to direct his header on target when all alone inside the 18-yard box. Cameroon's response was immediate as Emana fired a pile driver from distance a minute later but Essam El-Hadary was alert to push the ball out of harm's way.

From the restart, Egypt could have gone in front when Chedjou mistimed a long ball into the Cameroon area, Motaaeb got a foot to the ball but somehow Kameni gathered the ball. Minutes later, Zidan with a lot of space to spare shot inches wide as the Cameroon defence came under siege. Chedjou again succumbed to pressure in the 49th minute when he was robbed of the ball by Zidan on the edge of the box, but Kameni made a fine save.