Essam El-Hadary rolled back the years with an inspired performance t propel Egypt to the final of the Africa Cup of Nations after defeating Burkina Faso 4-3 on penalties in their semi-final clash at the Stade de L’amitie D’Angondje in Libreville.
After a 1-1 stalemate at the end of extra time, the 44-year-old veteran saved a decisive kick by Bertrand Traore to hand the seven-time African champions a place in Sunday’s final in Libreville as they await the winner of the other semi-final clash between Ghana and Cameroun.
The Stallions, who were aiming for only their second AFCON final since the 2013 tournament in South Africa, blew away their advantage during the shootout after the Egypt captain saved a kick by his opposing goalie, Kouakou Koffi, to throw the game open.
Abdallah El Said missed Egypt’s first penalty and it all seemed to be going the way of the West Africans until Koffi missed his kick.
The Burkinabes, who eliminated Tunisia at the same venue last Saturday, dominated possession but it was the Pharaohs took the lead in the 66th minute through winger Mohamed Salah who blasted the ball past Koffi after a patient buildup initiated by Ahmed Eissa.
Giant striker Aristide Bance, who inspired the Stallions with a late win over Tunisia, restored parity seven minutes later by smashing home from close range a pass by Charles Kabore. It was the first goal conceded in open play by El-Hadary after nearly 11 hours of football in Gabon.
In reaching the final on their return after a seven-year absence in the continent’s showpiece event, Hector Cuper’s side finished at winners of Group D and defeated North African rivals Morocco 1-0 in the quarter-finals.