Egypt squeezed past Ivory coast 5-4 on penalties in a hard-fought Africa Cup of Nations round of 16 clash at the Japoma Stadium in Douala on Wednesday.
The teams played to a goalless stalemate over 120 minutes, though this was no dour affair, with both the Elephants and the Pharaohs enjoying plenty of scoring opportunities, but lacking the ruthlessness in their finishing to claim an outright win.
Ultimately it was the North Africans who prevailed on post-match spot kicks, with key man Mohamed Salah scoring the decisive penalty to see them through to the final eight.
Ivory Coast made the early running, with Franck Kessie driving a low shot just wide in the third minute. The West Africans looked to press high up the field and deny the Egyptians space and time on the ball.
The Pharaohs, though, gradually gained a foothold in the game and very nearly claimed the lead on 17 minutes, with Omar Marmoush letting fly with a long-range shot which had the beating of goalkeeper Badra Ali Sangare but crashed back off the crossbar.
Four minutes later Mohamed Salah had his first sight of goal, getting away a snap shot from the edge of the box which required a sharp save from Sangare.
On the half-hour mark Ivory Coast suffered a major blow when key midfielder Franck Kessie limped off with injury – Serey Die took his place in the engine room.
Egypt threatened in attack again on 36 minutes, with Salah teeing up Mostafa Mohamed for a low shot which was turned away at the near post by Sangare.
The other Sangare on the pitch, midfielder Ibrahim, then looked to break the deadlock at the other end on 39 minutes with an acrobatic volley from inside the penalty area, but Egypt goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy turned the effort away for his first major involvement of the match.
El Shenawy made another key stop on the cusp of half time, keeping out an awkward volley from Sebastien Haller to see the game locked 0-0 heading into the interval.
The Pharaohs started the second stanza on the front foot, threatening through Amr El Solia (who shot over after great set up play from Salah) and Mohamed Elneny, who saw a shot deflected off Simon Deli and well saved by Sangare.
The 70th minute brought the best scoring chance to that point, with an Ivory Coast corner kick seeing Sangare heading on for Haller, who flicked an effort on goal but was denied by another good save from El Shenawy.
Fourteen minutes later, Ivorian substitute Wilfried Zaha had his first impact on the game with a driving run and shot from the left of the penalty area, but again El Shenawy kept the score line blank. Yet the ‘keeper paid for his heroics, suffering a hamstring strain which saw him replaced by Mohamed Gabaski.
Goalless at 90 minutes, the match went to extra time and Egypt started the extra half-hour the stronger of the two teams, with substitutes Mahmoud Trezeguet and Mohamed Sherif bringing an extra dimension to their attack.
Yet the Elephants twice came close before half time, with Sangare’s long-range curler denied by a fine save from Gabaski, before Deli headed just off target from the subsequent corner kick.
The teams continued trading attacks in the second half of extra time, but – as was the case for the previous 105 minutes – the net remained unrippled and a shootout was the final resort to establish a winner.
The penalties saw nine out of 10 kicks successfully dispatched, with only Ivorian Eric Bailly failing to score. Salah slammed home the final penalty to seal victory for Egypt and keep alive their hopes of a record-extending eighth AFCON title.
Egypt will face North African rivals Morocco in the quarterfinals in Yaounde on Sunday.
Ivory Coast 0
After extra time – Egypt won 5-4 on penalties
Ivory Coast: B. Sangare, Aurier, Bailly, Deli, Konan, I. Sangare, Kessie (Die 30’), Seri (Boga 72’), Gradel (Zaha 71’), Pepe, Haller (Cornet 105’)
Egypt: El Shenawy (Gabaski 89’), Abdelmonem, El Solia, Hegazi, Kamal, Elneny, Fathy (Zizo 84’), El Fotouh, Salah, Mohamed (Sherif 91’), Marmoush (Trezeguet 71’)