Goalie keeps Pharaohs on course for eighth title

Essam El Hadary saving a penalty from Burkina Faso custodian Herve Koffi during the semi-final shoot-out in Libreville to keep Egypt alive. The 44-year-old then denied Bertrand Traore in the last kick to take his team to their ninth Africa Cup of Nat
Essam El Hadary saving a penalty from Burkina Faso custodian Herve Koffi during the semi-final shoot-out in Libreville to keep Egypt alive. The 44-year-old then denied Bertrand Traore in the last kick to take his team to their ninth Africa Cup of Nations final.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

LIBREVILLE (Gabon) • Veteran goalkeeper Essam El Hadary saved two spot kicks, as Egypt beat Burkina Faso 4-3 on penalties on Wednesday to secure their place in the Africa Cup of Nations final.

A tense semi-final in Libreville had ended 1-1 after 90 minutes and extra time, with Roma star Mohamed Salah's superb 66th-minute opener for the Egyptians quickly cancelled out by Aristide Bance.

That goal was the first conceded by the 44-year-old - the oldest-ever player at the tournament - in 653 minutes, a defensive streak that stretched all the way back to the 2010 tournament.

Abdallah El Said missed Egypt's first penalty in the shoot-out but El Hadary saved from opposing goalkeeper Herve Koffi, before denying Bertrand Traore in the last kick.

"I had a feeling that I was going to save the final two penalties," El Hadary said after making his 150th international appearance.

For Egypt, the record seven-time champions of Africa, the win completes a remarkable journey all the way to the final in their first appearance at the tournament after a seven-year absence.

Unbeaten in 24 games at the tournament, they will play either Cameroon or Ghana in Libreville on Sunday. It will be Egypt's record-equalling ninth continental final - only Ghana have appeared in as many title deciders.

"We knew it would be difficult because Burkina were powerful and very quick. They were much fitter than us. They were even better in the second half with aggressive attacking. They wasted so many chances," Egypt's Argentinian coach Hector Cuper said.

Burkina Faso, who were hoping to repeat their run to the final in 2013, will instead go to Port-Gentil for the third-place play-off tomorrow.

El Hadary, who won titles in 1998, 2006, 2008 and 2010, was kept busy in the game, with key saves in the closing stages.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2017, with the headline 'Goalie keeps Pharaohs on course for eighth title'. Print Edition | Subscribe