Day 19 - Egypt will try for their third consecutive CAF Africa Cup of Nations in the final against Ghana on Sunday after beating eight-man Algeria 4-0. The Black Stars outlasted Nigeria 1-0 behind a goal from Asamoah Gyan to reach their first continental final in 18 years.
A close opening half hour in Benguela gave way to a Pharaohs' rout as Algeria’s Rafik Halliche was sent off for a second yellow card after giving away a penalty to open the scoring. Two more red cards for the Desert Foxes and three more goals for their regional rivals came in the second half as the Egyptians have now extended their record number of CAN matches without defeat to 18.
Hassan Shehata’s men will take on a young Ghanaian team that has impressed with their organisation in Angola despite being without many members of their first team, including midfielder Michael Essien, through injury. The Black Stars have now recorded three 1-0 wins on the trot after giving the two-time African champion Super Eagles the same knockout blow they did two years ago.
Egypt have already won six Cup of Nations trophies, more than any other country, while Ghana will be trying for their fifth continental crown on Sunday in Luanda’s 11 November Stadium. Nigeria and Algeria will battle for third place in Benguela the day before.
Goal of the day
Ghana 1-0 Nigeria, Asamoah Gyan (21’)
Two years ago, Asamoah Gyan almost left the host Ghanaian team at the Cup of Nations after receiving such heavy abuse from home fans, but the France-based striker has been the goal-scoring hero for his nation hero in Angola. He has three of the team’s four tallies, including both in 1-0 wins over hosts Angola and now Nigeria in the knockout rounds. In the quarter-final, he finished with a slick right foot, but Thursday he used his head, beating Obinna Nwaneri to the near post from Kwadwo Asamoah’s curled corner-kick. The cool finish allowed the Ghanaians to rely on their disciplined defence and soak up Nigerian pressure for the rest of the match. Gyan showed his confidence minutes later when he almost doubled the lead with a lob that went just over Vincent Enyeama’s bar.
Kingson gets the best of Martins
For the first time in the tournament, the Super Eagles consistently created chances in front of goal, but profligate finishing and some excellent goalkeeper by Ghana’s Richard Kingson conspired to keep the team in green from getting on the scoresheet. Handed his first start of the event, Obafemi Martins was denied a goal by a great diving save by Kingson when a deflection left him all alone in front of goal eight yards out in the 28th minute. On the hour mark, Martins once again found himself with ample space in the box, this time released by a cheeky chip from John Obi Mikel, but Kingson got an invaluable touch to the ball with his outstretched right hand as the two converged on it at the same moment. With a quarter of an hour to play, it was Ghana’s defence that stepped up as Martins ran onto another accurate Mikel long ball but dwelled on it and was muscled out of it by Samuel Inkoom. Veteran Kingson revealed after the match that “Towards the end of the game, I saw that my defence was getting a bit restless, so I had to calm them down a lot.”
Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac could only scratch his head watching from the bench as his injury list grew against Nigeria. Having already been depleted by the absence of key players that include Essien, Stephen Appiah, John Mensah and John Pantsil, the side received yet another blow when Opoku Agyemang was brought down and forced to go out on a stretcher. While the extent of the injury wasn’t clear after the match, it was enough to force him out of the crucial encounter and leave him a question mark for the final. Early in the second half, injuries once again forced Rajavec’s hand when he had to pull off Adu Sarpei for Ibrahim Ayew. And though he toughed it out in the end, even goalkeeper Kingson looked like he would have to go off after several hard knocks, the most serious with just a few minutes left when he went body to body with Chinedu Obasi Ogbuke. In the other match, Egypt’s Emad Moteab also went off with an injury in the 52nd minute with what looked like a strained hamstring.
Just getting warmed up
The craft and guile of Mohamed Zidan is one of the reasons the German-based striker has evolved into a key creative player for the Egyptians. And though his top form hasn’t been on display too often in Angola, his goal for Egypt in the 65th minute underlined his overall quality and could be a contender for one of the best of the tournament. With Algeria down to 10 men and chasing the ball, he dragged Nadir Belhadj left and right, using both feet before unleashing a rocket with his left from the edge of the area that effectively clinched the semi-final result for the defending champions. Later his unselfishness was also in evidence as it was his smart left-footed pass to Mohamed Abdelshafy that set up Egypt to score a third.
A sea of red and a goal leader
Algeria finished the match with eight men effectively rendering the contest over long before the final whistle. Defender Halliche was sent off for a second yellow card in eight minutes when he brought down Emad Moteab for the penalty that handed the Pharaohs the lead. Nader Belhadj got a straight red for a two-footed lunge with some 20 minutes left, and goalkeeper Faouzi Chaouchi went off with just minutes remaining after being booked for a second time. Chaouchi’s replacement was Mohamed Zemmamouche, and the substitute was part of the late rout as his net was bulged in injury time by Mohamed 'Gedo' Nagui, who is now tournament top scorer with four goals. Team-mate Ahmed Hassan, Ghana’s Gyan, Angola’s Flavio and Mali’s Seydou Keita are all on three behind him heading into the last two matches.
What they said
“It’s a heartbreaking moment for us. I think we played well, much better than them, but we couldn’t score that important goal. I guess in football, if you don’t score, you don’t win games. But again, I must emphasise the fact that we played good football today, much better than we have been in the past.” Nigeria’s John Obi Mikel.
“I told the players before the game that we don’t have to play fancy football, we have to play winning football. And today some people might say we didn’t play well, but we got the result, and that’s what is important.” Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac.
"We won like men in the World Cup, so we must take our defeat today like men." Abdelkader Ghezzal, Algeria striker.
"This was not about revenge. That World Cup game was months ago. Today was about getting through to the final and defending our title." Mohamed Zidan, Egypt striker.
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