AFCON: Congo defeat Egypt, hit quarter finals on penalties

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Egypt, without injured talisman Mohamed Salah, were eliminated from the Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday after losing an 8-7 penalty shootout against DR Congo.

Goalkeeper Lionel Mpasi converted the winning penalty shoot in San-Pedro after Mohamed Abou Gabal’s kick hit the bar and flew over.

A suspenseful last-16 match ended 1-1 after extra time, with DR Congo’s Meschack Elia scoring on 37 minutes and Mostafa Mohamed equalising with a penalty in the first half of extra time.

Liverpool star Salah was hurt in a group encounter against Ghana and retreated to his club, who stated that he would most likely only be able to return to the tournament if Egypt reached the final.

DR Congo will face Guinea, last-gasp 1-0 winners over Equatorial Guinea earlier on Sunday, next Friday in Abidjan for a place in the semi-finals.

Egypt and DR Congo may between them have won nine of the previous 33 Cup of Nations tournaments, but neither country managed even one victory in the group stage in the Ivory Coast this month.

They finished runners-up to Cape Verde and Morocco respectively in mini-leagues with identical records of three draws and three points.

Where they differed was in the number of goals scored with Egypt netting six times, including three from France-based Mohamed, and DR Congo only twice.

This was the fifth AFCON clash between the countries from 1970 with the Pharaohs defeating the Leopards three times and losing once ahead of the showdown in the west Ivorian coastal city.

– Controversial goal –

Notable absentees through injuries were Egyptian Mohamed el Shenawy, widely regarded as the best Africa-based goalkeeper and DR Congo playmaker Gael Kakuta.

Egypt dominated possession in a cagey opening half until DR Congo snatched the lead with a controversial Elia goal.

DR Congo took a throw-in that Egypt claimed should have been theirs and, while the North Africans protested, Yoane Wissa crossed for Elia to nod into the net at the far post.

A VAR review confirmed the goal and the off-field officials were also involved in the Egyptian equaliser a minute into added time at the end of the first half.

The South African referee initially waved play on after Dylan Batubinsika elbowed Egypt captain Ahmed Hegazy in the face, but was awarded a penalty after reviewing the incident on the monitor.

Mohamed maintained his goal-a-game record in the Ivory Coast by sending Mpasi the wrong way as he slammed the spot-kick into the roof of the net.

DR Congo won more of the ball as the second half progressed, but even half-chances for both sides remained scarce with defences marshalled by Hegazy and Chancel Mbemba on top.

In an attempt to bolster their attack, the Congolese replaced veteran forward Cedric Bakambu with Simon Banza, the 14-goal leading scorer in the Portuguese league this season.

With Egypt a man short after Mohamed Hamdy was sent off, DR Congo applied constant extra-time pressure, but could not score a winning goal.