Egypt advanced to the Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals on Sunday as Mohamed Salah inspired the record seven-time champions to a 2-1 extra-time victory over Morocco in Yaounde.
Morocco took the lead in the last-eight encounter thanks to Sofiane Boufal’s early penalty, but Egypt’s captain Salah leveled early in the second half and then made the winner for Mahmoud Trezeguet 10 minutes into extra time.
Egypt will face Cameroon in the semi-finals on Thursday in Yaounde.
Morocco has a 3-2 advantage with one match remaining in the premier African tournament’s seventh battle between the north African titans.
After last-16 triumphs over Malawi and the Ivory Coast, Morocco’s Vahid Halilhodzic and Egypt’s Carlos Queiroz made two changes apiece.
Aymen Barkok replaced Imran Louza on the right side of the Moroccan midfield, and attacker Munir el Haddadi took over for the injured Ayoub el Kaabi.
Mohamed Elshenawy, Egypt’s star goalkeeper, suffered an injury against the Ivorians and was replaced by Mohamed Abou Gabal.
Hamdy Fathy, a midfielder, was also ruled out, and Queiroz brought in Ayman Ashraf, a defender by trade, because of the threat posed by Morocco right-back Achraf Hakimi drifting forward.
Hakimi had an immediate impact after Ashraf failed to connect with the ball and fouled the Paris Saint-Germain star, resulting in a penalty after the referee checked the VAR monitor.
Morocco switched penalty takers after fluffing a penalty against the Comoros, and Boufal did not disappoint the Atlas Lions, placing his kick into the right corner as Abou Gabal dived in the opposite direction.
Egypt failed to equalize the last time they fell down in the tournament, against Nigeria in their first group encounter, and had to settle for second place behind the Super Eagles in the final standings.
– Desperate to make amends – Desperate to make amends after conceding the penalty, Ashraf forced a fantastic two-hand parried save from Morocco goalkeeper Yassine ‘Bono’ Bounou midway through the first half.
Egyptian defenders were not afraid to take long-range shots, and Ahmed Fatouh put Bounou to the test once more, with the Sevilla shot-stopper proving up to the challenge of denying an equaliser.
Hakimi, who scored a superb match-winning goal from a free-kick five days ago against Malawi at the same field, had a set-piece opportunity not far from the box, but he blasted wide.
Queiroz, the former Real Madrid manager and twice Manchester United assistant manager, was angry during the match, and both the referee and the fourth official spoke to him.
The first half finished with Morocco maintaining their one-goal lead, as Egypt captain and talisman Salah, who is seeking his second goal of the tournament, remained largely unseen.
At halftime, Egypt substituted Trezeguet for injured defender Ahmed Hegazy, and the Aston Villa striker went just wide with a snap shot just four minutes into the second half.
Morocco was struggling, and Egypt equalized on 53 minutes when Salah tapped in from close range after Bounou could only parry a Mohamed Abdelmonem header from a corner.
Minutes before the end, Hakimi appealed to being fouled by Mostafa Mohamed, resulting in pushing from both teams, and the fatigued referee booking both players.
As Morocco steadily recovered control, Egypt was saved by Abou Gabal, who pushed a Nayef Aguerd header against the underside of the crossbar, sending the game to extra time.
On 100 minutes, three Moroccan defenders failed to stop Salah’s cross, which was turned in by Trezeguet at the far post.