DR Congo Knocks Egypt Out of the ongoing AFCON at Round of 16 at penalties after the 1:1 draw

Goalkeeper Lionel Mpasi scored the 18th penalty of a thrilling shoot-out, securing a stunning victory for DR Congo over seven-time champions Egypt.

This victory propels DR Congo into the quarter-finals of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations after a hard-fought 1-1 draw in extra time.

DR Congo took the lead for the first time at the finals with a well-placed header from Meschack Elia, courtesy of Yoane Wissa’s cross. This unexpected turn of events adds to the string of surprising results in the tournament, where underdog success has been a recurring theme, as seen in Ivory Coast.

Their advantage lasted a mere nine minutes before Mostafa Mohamed stepped up and successfully converted a penalty right before the end of the first half. This came after Ahmed Hegazi was accidentally struck by Dylan Batubinsika’s arm.

Egypt ended the match with a player short as their left-back was sent off. Mohamed Hamdy received a second yellow card during extra time for a mistimed challenge on Simon Banza.

And, following Pharaohs keeper Gabaski’s near miss in the ninth round of the shoot-out, Mpasi confidently sealed the victory with a penalty, securing an 8-7 win.

Rui Vitoria’s team had a disappointing tournament, failing to secure a win in the absence of their injured captain Mohamed Salah. This outcome mirrored their experience in the 2021 final, where they were defeated in a penalty shootout by Senegal.

A Hegazi missed a golden opportunity in the early stages of the first half, while substitute Mahmoud Hamada slipped up on a good chance towards the end of regular time. However, the Leopards deservedly emerged as winners. They could have taken the lead earlier if Elia hadn’t blasted his shot over in the third minute.

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In the shoot-out, both teams had their chances, but unfortunately, Mohamed’s shot went wide and Arthur Masuaku’s attempt sailed over the crossbar for the Central Africans.

However, Mpasi remained calm and placed the ball perfectly into the top right-hand corner, despite facing Gabaski, who had gained a reputation for saving penalties during Egypt’s journey to the final in Cameroon two years prior.

DR Congo is set to face Guinea in the quarter-finals at Abidjan’s Alassane Ouattara Stadium on Friday (20:00 GMT). This comes after the Syli National secured a 1-0 victory against Equatorial Guinea earlier on Sunday.

It was no shock that the match ended in a draw after 90 minutes, considering both teams had previously drawn all three of their group games.

An exciting turn of events occurred just before halftime when Masuaku’s quick thinking led to a brilliant play. With a clever throw-in, he released Wissa on the left, who then entered the penalty area and delivered a cross that deflected into the path of Elia. With perfect timing, Elia headed the ball into the net, breaking the deadlock.

During the finals, Egypt faced the absence of Emam Ashour, one of their early stars, due to concussion. Additionally, keeper Mohamed El Shenawy had to be replaced by Gabaski after suffering a dislocated shoulder in their final group-stage game.

Despite the absence of their star player, the North Africans managed to find an equaliser through Mohamed, who once again demonstrated his dependability by converting a penalty kick.

Hegazi fell to the ground after Batubinsika’s challenge, prompting referee Abongile Tom to give the center-back a yellow card for a stray arm after reviewing the incident with VAR and checking the pitch-side monitor.

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Opportunities were scarce in the second half, but Cedric Bakambu managed to get to Elia’s well-placed cross before Hegazi. Unfortunately, Bakambu’s quick finish went just wide at the near post.

Chancel Mbemba missed the target with a header from Masuaku’s cross, and the Leopards were fortunate that Mpasi was able to make a quick save when Hamdi Fathi’s clever flick set up Zizo for a powerful shot from a difficult angle.

However, Hamada had a clear opportunity when Zizo found him at the far post after he was brought on late in the game. Unfortunately, he lost his balance as the cross went past him, giving DR Congo a lucky escape.

As penalties approached, Egypt found themselves in a defensive position after Hamdy was sent off for a foul that left Banza injured and in pain.

West Brom midfielder Grady Diangana came close to making a crucial connection as the ball bounced across Egypt’s six-yard box. This set the stage for a tense finale, where the more experienced teams seemed focused on preserving their lead rather than taking risks in their offensive play.

Mpasi seemed focused on studying photos of Egypt’s potential penalty attempts as the teams gathered before the final act. Meanwhile, Gabaski may have been reflecting on his impressive performance in the 2021 finals, where he saved four spot kicks across three shoot-outs, including Sadio Mane’s first-half effort in the final.

On that occasion, the player of the match could only hit the crossbar when he had the opportunity to take a shot. This time, there were a series of finishes that didn’t give either custodian many chances to shine.

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