Seventy days on from Algeria's acrimonious victory over Egypt in a World Cup qualifying play-off, the Pharaohs had their revenge with what was, in the end, a comfortable victory. They march on to a third straight Africa Cup of Nations final, trying to convince themselves that this makes up for the defeat in Omdurman.
Algeria, meanwhile, having finished with just eight men on the pitch, have a clear issue with self-control to address, but will – however hard it was to believe last night – be at the World Cup in June.
"Today we played against Egypt and the referee," said the Rangers and Algeria defender Madjid Bougherra. "He was rubbish. Sometimes you see this in Africa. You cannot believe it when you see this on the pitch.
"But we are going to the World Cup. That is our consolation and there we can enjoy it because they have good referees."
When the heat of battle has cooled, though, he may accept that their problems lay closer to home. Koffi Codjia, the experienced Beninois official, perhaps made a contentious call when he deemed Rafik Halliche to have tripped Emad Meteeb in the box as he sought to recover after fluffing a clearance, but thereafter he had little choice in his decisions. Having given the penalty, he was obliged to issue a yellow card; unfortunately for Halliche and Algeria, it was his second.
Hosny Abd Rabou, another who is yet to shine in Angola, converted from the spot, and as Algeria protested about his stuttered run up, there came the first sign of serious ill-discipline, as the goalkeeper Faouzi Chaouchi seemed to aim a head-butt at Codjia. He missed, and Codjia showed only a yellow card, but the Confederation of African Football may decide his action is worthy of a ban, which could rule him out of Algeria's World Cup group match with England.
Even before the first red card, though, Egypt were totally dominant, their passing giving them control of midfield. In the build-up, Zidan had said the game would be "like a war"; it wasn't, it was a rout. The Borussia Dortmund forward had had a subdued tournament, but yesterday he was inspired, and added the second after 65 minutes, arcing a precise shot into the top corner. As Egypt, always a neat passing team, began spinning mocking webs through midfield, Belhadj threw himself into a foul on El Mohamady and was rightly sent off. Mohamed Abdelshafi added a third with a neat finish from a narrow angle, Chaouchi became the third man sent off for a kick at Mohamed Nagui, and then Nagui bundled a fourth, but by then the game had long since been won.
Belhadj had a torrid night, highlighting just how uncomfortable Algeria's transition from the traditional North African back three to a back four – undertaken after defeat to Malawi in the opening game – remains. More usually a wing-back with his national team, the Portsmouth full-back was given little cover by Karim Ziani, nominally the left-sided midfielder, but more often to be found drifting infield, and was exposed both by Zidan and by El Mohamady, his frustration at that presumably at least partly the cause of his dismissal.
Zidan had said he could watch the World Cup "at peace" if Egypt won. His bewilderment at how Algeria managed to edge them out may prevent that, but at least he and Egypt have the satisfaction of humiliating their bitterest rivals. A hamstring injury to Meteeb may hinder them, but on Sunday, only a youthful Ghana stand between them and an unprecedented third straight Cup of Nations triumph.
Algeria (4-4-2): Chaouchi; Yahia, Bougherra, Halliche, Belhadj; Yebda, Meghni (Laifaoui, 67), Mansouri, Ziani; Matmour (Abdoun, 75), Ghezzal (Zemmamouche, 89)
Egypt (3-5-2): El Hadary; Gomaa, Hany Said, Fathalla (Nagui, 59); El Mohamady, Hassan, Fathi, Hosny, Moawad (Abdelshafi, 78); Zidan, Meteeb (Ghaly, 52).
Referee: K Codjia (Benin)Reuse content