Mahmoud Kahraba’s goal from a poorly defended set piece in the 88th minute handed Egypt a 1-0 win over Morocco in the quarter finals of the African Cup of Nations on Sunday night in Port Gentil, Gabon.
The result ended Frenchman Herve Renard’s dream of being the first coach to win the AFCON thrice with different teams. The Moroccan national team coach won the title with Zambia in 2012 and led Ivory Coast to the championship in 2015, which was the last AFCON edition.
His side will feel hugely undone by the result especially after dominating chunks of play in the second half, Egypt scoring with only their third shot on target in the entire second period.
In the other quarter final match played in Oyem, Abedi Pele’s sons Jordan and Andre Ayew scored as Ghana beat DR Congo 2-1.
The Congolese, coached by home-grown coach Florent Ibenge had hoped to also make history of their own, by being the first team to win both the African Nations Championship (CHAN) and the AFCON.
Congo’s exit means that there is no local coach left in the tournament.
Ghana will take on Cameroon in a mouth watering West African derby in Franceville on Thursday while the Pharaohs will take on Burkina Faso on Wednesday in the capital Libreville.
Egypt had previously won just two of their previous 26 matches against the Atlas Lions and the odds were hugely against them and considered second favorite against a Moroccan side that was firing on all cylinders.
The first half was left to be a tactical battle between Renard and Egypt’s Hector Cuper, with very little scoring chances created. The closest was when Romain Saiss failed to connect to a Manuel Da Costa cross at point blank.
Superb one handed save
The second half started on a more exciting note and the Moroccan keeper was forced to produce a superb one handed save to deny Mohammed Salah’s effort on the volley after breaking into the box.
On the other end, Morocco were also threatening and M'bark Boussoufa saw his low effort come off the upright.
Morocco who were making their first appearance in the knockout stages since the 2004 tournament in Tunisia attacked relentlessly but were undone by a blunt strike force.
Aziz Bouhaddouz had a super point blank chance to break the deadlock but completely missed the ball after Faycal Fajr had done well to drill a low cross into the area.
Bouhaddouz continued posing danger and came close again with a nifty header that went inches wide with Esam El Hadary in the Egypt goal beaten.
On the other end, a hugely subdued Egypt had another chance, Salah being the man in the thick of things again.
A free-kick routine straight off the training ground saw Abdallah El Said chip the ball over the wall and onto an onrushing Salah, but the AS Roma forward saw his effort stopped by the Moroccan keeper.
With the game seemingly heading for a stalemate and a further half hour to find a winner, Kahraba slammed home from a corner after the Atlas Lions backline failed to decisively clear the ball.
Siblings steer Ghana to semis
Earlier in Oyem, 11 years after their father scored a goal against the Congolese (then Zaire), the Ayew brothers mirrored on their dad’s feat scoring to steer Ghana into the semis.
Jordan had opened the scores with a superb thunderbolt in the 63rd minute. Les Leopards equalized five minutes later with Paul-Jose Mpoku responding with an equally vicious long range effort, but Andre Ayew restored the Black Stars’ lead with a 78th minute penalty.
Despite being one of the African football powerhouses, Ghana have not won AFCON since 1982. None of the members of the current squad were born the last time the West Africans conquered Africa.
Congo began brighter and Hull City forward Diumerci Mbokani was the main man for them. The forward who was handed the arm band for the day rattled the woodwork early on with a low effort after intercepting an attempted Harrison Afful pass back to his keeper.
Junior Kabananga who has scored three goals in the tournament also had a go at goal but he blasted over after being set up by Mbokani.
In the second half, Ghana woke from their slumber and Jordan Ayew did justice to a Mubarak Wakaso pass to blast past Ley Matampi.
With Mpoku having equalized for the Central Africans, it seemed game on until Joyce Lomalisa fouled Christian Atsu in the box, and Andre Ayew sent Matampi the wrong way to seal the win for Ghana.