Côte d'Ivoire vs. Egypt  1 - 4

Article

Egypt dump Ivory Coast and eye sixth Nations Cup title

7 February 2008 23:59

KUMASI, Ghana (AFP) - Defending champions Egypt took aim at a sixth African Nations Cup title on Thursday when they defeated Ivory Coast 4-1 in the semi-finals to set-up a final showdown on Sunday against Cameroon.

Cameroon, the four-time champions, earlier edged hosts Ghana 1-0 in the other semi-final in Accra.

Sunday's final will be a rematch of the teams opening Group C clash here which the Pharoahs won 4-2.

Egypt opened the scoring after 12 minutes through Ahmed Fathy, whose shot took a deflection.

Amr Zaky extended the lead in the 62nd minute before Kader Keita reduced the tally for the Ivorians a minute later.

Zaky restored the two-goal cushion in the 67th minute before Mohamed Aboutrika completed the rout in stoppage time when he smashed the ball into the roof of the net from a pass by substitute Mohamed Zidan.

"We are delighted with the performance and the result," said Egypt assistant coach Shawki Gharib.

Ivory Coast coach Gerard Gili insisted the loss of first-choice goalkeeper Boubacar Barry through injury did not adversely affect the fortunes of his team.

"The exit of my goalkeeper was not the reason we lost. His absence only meant I lost a chance to make another substitution. We simply had an off day. We did not expect to lose by such a wide margin but the Egyptians played well and pulled it off."

This semi-final was the rematch of the final of the 2006 edition of the tournament and it lived up to its billing with five goals and end-to-end action.

Ivory Coast created the first surprise of the night when they started Arsenal centre-half Kolo Toure, who suffered a groin injury against Benin in a group game and was understood to have played his last match of the competition.

Egypt, on the hand, chose not take such a gamble on injury-troubled Mohamed Zidan and dropped him to the bench.

Salomon Kalou failed to direct his header towards goal after seven minutes while, moments later, Didier Drogba raced into the box but his final effort with his back to goal was collected easily by goalkeeper Esam El Hadary.

However, Egypt took the lead through Fathy on 12 minutes when he rifled home a shot from the edge of the box which took a slight deflection off a defender to fly past a bewildered Barry.

The problems for the Ivory Coast were compounded in the 38th minute when first-choice goalkeeper Barry limped out of the game after he collided with an Egyptian attacker to be replaced by Germany-based Stephan Lobue.

On the stroke of half-time, El Hadary fumbled Drogba's powerful header off a corner only for his defence to clear the danger and maintain Egypt's lead going into the interval.

The Ivorians seized the attacking initiative at the restart. They would have been rewarded almost immediately but El Hadary made a superb goalline save from a bullet header from Drogba.

The defending champions made it 2-0 in the 62nd minute when hard working Amr Zaky headed home a corner taken by skipper Ahmed Hassan.

But a minute later Ivory Coast responded in fine style when Kader Keita struck a thunderous drive from outside the box that beat a diving El Hadary.

Egypt came back and Zaky grabbed his second goal in the 67th minute when from the top of the box he crashed the ball past Lobue.

The big striker would have completed his hat-trick soon after but his shot missed the target narrowly with the goalkeeper again well beaten.

Encouraged by the weaknesses of the second-choice Ivorian goalkeeper, the Egyptians began to shoot from every angle and Lobue was forced to tip an Emad Mohamed shot for a corner.

In stoppage time, Aboutrika completed the destruction of the Elephants when he slotted home from a counter attack initiated by Zidan.