Mohamed Salah and Egypt defeated Cameroon 3-1 on penalties to reach the final of AFCON 2021 following a hard-fought encounter between two of Africa’s giants in Olembe.
The build-up to the match was made interesting by comments made by the tournament’s leading scorer and Cameroon captain Vincent Aboubakar about Egypt captain Mohamed Salah.
The Cameroonian side started the match on the front foot and had the Pharaohs clinging on dearly in the first half as towering central defender Michael Ngadeu sent a header crashing against the top of the crossbar. The Indomitable Lions were in control of affairs in front of a partisan home crowd and created a number of good openings, which they were unable to take.
The second half was more of the same for Cameroon with Karl Toko-Ekambi especially missing a great chance to put the Indomitable Lions in the lead against Egypt.
Egypt had a chance of their own, but were let down by the usually clinical Mohamed Salah. The forward chased down a short backpass by Martin Hongla and was one-on-one with Andre Onana, but the Cameroon goalkeeper quickly stuck out a leg to divert the ball out of play as Salah looked to run past him.
The match got heated with extra time looming and Egypt saw their coach Carlos Queiroz receive a red card following two bookings from referee Pape Gassama. The experienced manager remonstrated angrily and had to be restrained by his assistant and Pharaohs legend Wael Gomaa as he was led into the dressing room.
Egypt had the best chance in extra time as substitute Ramadan Sobhi skipped past his marker on the right of the box before fizzing a mid-height cross across the face of goal that was missed by three Egyptian players in front of a gaping goal. Both sides could not be separated after two hours of football, and penalties were needed.
Cameroon captain Aboubakar stepped up and sent the Egyptian goalkeeper the wrong way with the first penalty, and Egypt’s Zizo did the same.
Defender Harold Moukoudi betrayed a lack of confidence as he jogged up slowly to take his penalty, sending a tame effort too close to Egypt goalkeeper Ali Gabal “Gabaski”. Mohamed AbdulMoneim scored to put the Pharaohs in the driving seat before James Lea Siliki sent his penalty too close to Gabaski, who saved once more.
Mostafa Lasheen scored from the spot to put the Pharaohs on the brink of qualification. Former Tottenham Hotspur winger Clinton N’jie needed to score, but sent a terrible effort wide of the upright to confirm Egypt as winners of the shootout.
The Pharaohs have now successfully avenged their defeat at the hands of Cameroon in the 2017 AFCON final in Gabon. Cameroon will face Burkina Faso for the tournament’s bronze medal.