Esam El-Hadary, the Egypt national team goalkeeper rolled back the years with two superb penalty saves to take Egypt to the African Cup of Nations final after beating Burkina Faso 4-3 on post match penalties.
The teams drew 1-1 in regular and extra time. In the shoot out, El-Hadary showed that at 44, he still has what it takes to be a top keeper with superb saves.
Not only was the Wadi Degla FC shot stopper effective on the penalties, but he also made superb saves in regular time to keep the Pharaohs afloat. El Hadary came into the tournament as a back-up to Ahmed El-Shanawi but the Zamalek goalkeeper was injured after 30 minutes in the first game.
Egypt qualified for their 12th AFCON final and are searching for an eighth title.
The dream seemed to fizzle out after Abdallah El Said’s first penalty for Egypt was pushed onto the upright by Burkinabe keeper Herve Koffi. Alain Traore, Banou Diawara and Steve Yago kept it perfect for Burkina Faso calmly converting their penalties.
Ramadhan Sobhy was lucky with his attempt while defender Ahmed Hegazy stepped forward powerfully to keep the tie 3-2 in favor of the Burkinabe.
Star player Mohammed Salah who scored Egypt’s goal in regular time made it 3-3 with a stroke down into the bottom left and it was the turn of Burkina Faso to take the tide even higher.
Burkina Faso goal keeper Kofi saw his effort pushed away by El-Hadary who is 24 years his senior. Amr Warda then converted Egypt’s fifth and all eyes were on the 44-year old to do duty and save Burkina Faso’s fifth.
When the skillful and hugely talented Bertrand Traore woke up to take the West Africans’ final kick to tie the game at 4-4, El Hadary pulled the best off his hat, using both his hands and feet to save the kick and send the Pharaohs to the Sunday final.
Egyptians absorbed pressure
The Egyptians had sat back most of the match, absorbing pressure from Burkina Faso who dictated play. They got into the lead in the 66th minute via a well taken Salah volley, but The Stallions equalized minutes later through their cult hero Aristide Bance.
Bance’s goal scored after a control and shoot execution inside the box was the first El Hadary was conceding in 653 minutes at the African Cup of Nations since 2010.
The Egyptians had put out a new midfield partnership which failed to tick in time and in turn Burkina Faso enjoying possession.
Arsenal midfielder Mohamed El Neny was missing with injury and Hector Cuper, the Egyptian coach paired Ibrahim Salah and Tarek Hamed, who both play for Zamelek.
Despite being club team mates, they could not get the right chemistry to keep possession and create chances for Egypt.
El Hadary was the busiest of the two keepers and he was called into action early, saving a shot from Blati Traore comfortably.
The closest Egypt came to a goal in the opening 45 minutes was via a Mahmoud Trezequet curled effort which went inches wide of goal.
After a conservative first half Egypt opened up a bit in the second period and were rewarded in the 66th minute when Mahmoud Kahraba’s lay off found Salah and the AS Roma forward made no mistake.
Burkina Faso equalized four minutes later though, the peroxide haired Bance breaching the Egyptian defense for the first time in the tournament. El Hadary then needed to be alert to tip over from substitute Banou Diawara in stoppage time, ensuring the game went into extra time and ultimately penalties.