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Egypt, Senegal reach AFCON semi-finals

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Egypt forward Mostafa Mohamed (left) and Morocco defender Achraf Hakimi jump for the ball during the Africa Cup of Nations 2021 quarter-final football match on Sunday. AFP

Egypt, Senegal reach AFCON semi-finals

Mohamed Salah starred as Egypt reached the Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals on Sunday and were joined in the last four by Senegal, while the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde where eight people died in a crush on January 24 was given the green light to host the final.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) gave the stadium the go ahead to host the second semi-final on February 3 between the hosts and Egypt, and the final on February 6 after lifting the temporary suspension of the venue where eight died, including a child.

“Having noted the recommendations and undertakings from government in regard to additional security provisions . . . the CAF Organising Committee unanimously agreed to lift the suspension imposed on the Olembe Stadium,” African football’s governing body said in a statement.

“The Local Organising Committee and the government of Cameroon having significantly increased security and resources at the Olembe Stadium, [CAF] are confident that the safety and security of spectators and visitors will be assured.”

The disaster happened prior to January 24’s last-16 tie between hosts Cameroon and the Comoros, when supporters were caught in a crush at the south entrance gate of the stadium.

Thirty eight people were also injured in the disaster. Witnesses said that a mass of people were crushed up against gates at the southern entrance before police eventually opened them.

Hundreds of supporters then broke through, causing a stampede.

Cameroon’s sports minister on Friday blamed a “reckless decision” by security forces to open the closed gate for the tragedy and announced a raft of measures aimed at ensuring that the Olembe Stadium could be reopened.

Olembe, a 60,000-seat venue built for the tournament, was then stripped of the quarter-final due to be played there, with the match instead moved to the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium also in Yaounde.

That meant a double-header at the stadium on Sunday, with Egypt coming from behind to defeat Morocco 2-1 in extra time before Senegal beat Equatorial Guinea 3-1.

Goal and assist for Salah

Morocco took the lead through an early Sofiane Boufal penalty only for Egypt captain Salah to equalise early in the second half, following up to score after a Mohamed Abdelmonem header was saved.

Egypt goalkeeper Mohamed Abou Gabal then tipped a late Nayef Aguerd header onto the crossbar as the game went to extra time, and the record seven-time continental champions found the winner in the 100th minute.

Salah made it with some excellent play on the right before his low delivery to the back post was turned in by Mahmoud Trezeguet.

“Our goal is to make the people in Egypt happy,” said Salah while his coach, Carlos Queiroz, dismissed suggestions the Pharaohs are a one-man team.

“I agree that the best players need to show up but without the team that we saw out there on the pitch today it is not possible to win games,” he said.

Mane stars for Senegal

As he was leaving the stadium, Salah bumped into his Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane arriving for Senegal’s match.

Mane set up the opener for Famara Diedhiou in the last-eight encounter but Equatorial Guinea fought back to equalise through Jannick Buyla early in the second half.

However, substitutes Cheikhou Kouyate and Ismaila Sarr then both found the net to seal Senegal’s place in the semis and a meeting with Burkina Faso on Wednesday at the same Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in the Cameroonian capital.

Burkina Faso defeated Tunisia 1-0 on Saturday to give some relief to a country rocked by the ousting of President Roch Marc Christian Kabore in a military coup the previous week.

Hosts Cameroon beat Gambia 2-0 in their quarter-final in Douala in their first outing since the Olembe disaster, and they will now return there to face Egypt on Thursday in a meeting of the two teams with the most Cup of Nations titles.

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