Defending champions Egypt became the third team to reach the semi-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations last night, overcoming Cameroon 3-1 after extra time in a match marred by a controversial third goal in Benguela.
Two goals in the first five minutes of the extra 30 put Egypt through, although the game will be remembered for the third goal by captain Ahmed Hassan, allowed to stand despite the ball clearly not crossing the line. Amid protests from the Cameroon players, referee Jerome Damon awarded the goal despite the free-kick being punched on to the crossbar by the goalkeeper Carlos Kameni and bouncing away to safety.
Midfielder Hassan, winning an African record 170th cap, had already scored an own goal to put Cameroon ahead on 26 minutes before hitting the target at the right end to pull his side level with a powerful long-range strike before half-time, although the goalkeeper should have done better. The second half failed to produce a goal as the tie followed Algeria's match with Ivory Coast the previous night in going to extra time. Substitute Mohamed Gedo capitalised on a horrendous back pass from the Newcastle midfielder Geremi to put the Egyptians ahead after 92 minutes before Hassan's controversial strike three minutes later.
Paul Le Guen's side had Aurelien Chedjou sent off for bringing down Gedo in the second period of extra time as they desparately chased a way back into the game but it was not to be, and Egypt went through to a Thursday's semi-final – which will again be held in Benguela – against Algeria.
Security will be tightened for that game, a rematch of last November's contentious play-off for a World Cup place. Algeria prevailed 1-0 on that occasson and will hope for a similar display this week as they bid for a first appearance in the final since 1990.
Cameroon seemed determined to end the Egyptian stronghold over them, although there were no clear cut opportunities apart from a flurry of corners that were comfortably dealt with. Ahmed Al-Muhammadi headed a Mohamed Zidan free-kick over for Egypt.
The deadlock was finally broken when Hassan's weak header failed to keep out an Emana corner and he nodded into his own net at the near post to put Egypt behind. The Indomitable Lions went close to increasing their lead before a ferocious 35-yard free-kick from Hassan was poorly dealt with by a scampering Kameni and nestled in the net. Egypt almost took the lead after half-time when a clearance was allowed to bounce but Kameni kept out Emad Moteab's attempted flick. Samuel Eto'o wasted a good chance and Kameni performed heroics to help take the game into an extra time.
Nigeria will face Ghana in the other semi-final after they beat Zambia 5-4 on penalties last night. The quarterfinal in Lubango finished goalless, with Nigeria reduced to 10 men after Onyekachi Apam was sent off in the second period of extra time. The Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama was the hero, saving Thomas Nyirenda’s fourth kick for Zambia in the shoot-out before striking the winning penalty himself past Zambia’s goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene.
Africa Cup of Nations: Fixtures
Thursday Algeria v Egypt (4pm), Ghana v Nigeria (7.30pm)
Saturday (Benguela, 4pm)
Sunday (Luanda, 4pm)