AFCON: Egypt eliminate Cameroon, will face Senegal in final
Cameroon 0-0 (1-3 penalties AET) Egypt
Olembe Stadium, Yaounde
Goalkeeper Mohamed Abou Gabal was once again the hero on Thursday night, helping Egypt eliminate hosts Cameroon to reach the final of the Africa Cup of Nations. Egypt will now face off against Senegal in Sunday's match.
The 33-year-old Zamalek goalkeeper re-enacted his penalty heroics from the round of 16 victory against the Ivory Coast.
This time, Gabal saved two kicks played by the Cameroonians while the last one was sent flying into the stands by Clinton Njie.
Egypt scored three of their kicks and edged the shootout 3-1 — cinching the win for Egypt and setting them up for their second AFCON final in three of the last championships.
Thursday's semifinal win was just reward for the Pharaohs, who lost the final of the 2017 tournament to Cameroon in Libreville. In the 2017 final, a late goal by Cameroon's Vincent Aboubakar gave the Indomitable Lions their fifth title and denied Egypt a record-extending eighth.
It was a tough encounter between two of the most successful African sides. The hosts came into the game with the leading scorers, Aboubakar (six) and Karl Toko Ekambi (five) but failed to break down their opponents. Their closest attempt came in the first half when defender Michael Ngadeu's header hit the crossbar from a corner kick on 18 minutes.
Egypt were restricted to counter attacks that were largely ineffective in finding the goal. The tactical set up of both sides meant that chances were few throughout the encounter.
On the sidelines was where much of the drama played out as Egypt’s coaches got into a shouting match with the center referee, Bakary Gassama.
The Gambian referee warned Egypt coach Carlos Queiroz for making a scene about his officiating early in the first half.
Queiroz had complained about officiating throughout the tournament and told media before the game about his misgivings.
He criticized every call that went the way of the Cameroonians, eventually leading Queiroz to be sent off by Gassama in the second half for his protestations against the referee's calls.
The Pharaohs emerge winners
Despite the chaos on their bench, Mohamed Salah kept his side focused on the pitch and they held on for the entire game, coming very close to winning the game just before the end of regulation time.
They went into the extra 30 minutes with Gabal struggling from an injury to his thigh. But the goalkeeper fought on and emerged the hero of the shootout.
Egypt is now marching on to Sunday's final where they will face Senegal’s Teranga Lions who are searching for their first African title.
The Lions defeated Burkina Faso 3-1 in their semifinal game on Wednesday, securing their place in Sunday's clash of the biggest stars of African football.
The Liverpool duo of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah will highlight one of the biggest finals in the history of the tournament — and ensure that a global audience is tuned into the game.
While the Pharaohs will go into the game as possibly the favorites backed by their record haul of titles, Senegal have a lot to prove after losing the final to Algeria by a slim 1-0 three years ago in Cairo.
Edited by: Rebecca Staudenmaier