Egypt strike late to reach Nations Cup semi-finals

PORT-GENTIL: Morocco’s midfielder Mbarek Boussoufa (R) challenges Egypt’s midfielder Tarek Hamed during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final football match between Egypt and Morocco in Port-Gentil on Sunday. — AFP

PORT GENTIL:  Egypt’s Mahmoud Kahraba scored a dramatic late goal to snatch a 1-0 win over their nemesis Morocco on Sunday and a place in the African Nations Cup semi-finals.

The seven times winners were on the back foot for much of the last eight game against their north African rivals but grabbed the winner from an 87th minute corner.  Morocco failed to clear the bouncing ball and substitute Kahraba hooked it home from close range to book a semi-final against Burkina Faso on Wednesday.

Ghana meet Cameroon in the other semi-final in Franceville on Thursday. The victory was the first for Egypt against Morocco for 31 years and ended the hopes of the latter’s coach, Frenchman Herve Renard, of collecting a third Nations Cup trophy.  It will be all the more disappointing for Renard given that his unfancied side created more than enough chances to win.  The first half was an intriguing tactical battle as Morocco pressed their opponents but gave away too many midfield fouls.  There was little way through for Egypt whose only chance came after 15 minutes when Morocco’s Medhi Benatia missed the ball from a corner and Mohamed Trezeguet behind him was gifted a chance to shoot, forcing a good save from goalkeeper Munir.

A similar defensive lapse by Egypt almost saw them concede their first goal of the tournament when Romain Saiss completely missed a chance in front of goal and when the ball bounced back to him his header shaved the bar and bounced over.  At the start of the second half, Egypt had an opportunity when Mohamed Salah broke free of his marker and hit a half-volley, only to see Munir make a superb one-handed save.  Then Morocco’s Mbark Boussoufa curled a shot from outside the box onto the bar in the 55th minute and five minutes later target man Aziz Bouhaddouz missed from close range.  Morocco kept up the pressure with more half chances in the final minutes before being caught out at a corner and seeing their Nations Cup hopes end somewhat against the run of play. – Reuters

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