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Morocco through to the final after edging out Egypt in a thrilling semi-final
12-07-2011
           
 
 
Abdelaziz Barrada  scored the fastest goal of the tournament so far just 50 seconds into play and added a second one in 9th minute as Morocco beat Egypt in a thrilling U-23 African Championship semi- final in Marrakech. The hosts have now qualified for London 2012 Olympic Games football finals joining Gabon while Egypt will fight it out with Senegal for the third automatic place at the Olympics.  
Morocco stormed off from the first whistle and Barrada scored from virtually the first attack beating the goalkeeper with a fierce ground shot. The Egyptian side looked shell-shocked and had hardly worked out what had happened when Barrada returned to torment them in the 9th minute.
After the shock of conceding two quick goals Egypt settled down and started using the flanks productively with Mohamed Ahmed Abd El Baset running well on the right and on the left Mohamed Salah was combining to good effect with Aly Fathy and Moahmed Ahmed Magdy. The Egyptians send in some crosses into the box and during one such move Salah’s effort came off the post and the rebound finally saved by Youness Itri in goal for Morocco. Egypt went close again with Salah involved only for Abdelatif Noussir to clear the ball just before it crossed the goal line. At the other end outstanding Barrada remained a threat and brought the best out of Egyptian keeper Ahmed El Shenawi who saved from point blank after  Barrada had worked his way through the defence.
Barrada should have grabbed his hat-trick when he pounced on a shot punched back into play by El Shenawi from a Adnane Tighadouini stinger. Barrada shot rather tamely allowing the keeper to parry it out for a corner kick as the pulsating match swung from one end to the other.
In the 35th minute Mohamed Salah who had changed flanks and now operating from the right released a shot that flew across the diving Itri into the bottom left corner of the net and the young Pharaohs had opened their account. In the 61st minute El Shenawi for the umpteenth time saved Egypt with another fantastic point blank range stop from Soufiane Bidaoui who divert a cross goal wards from three meters out only to see El Shenawi palmed it away as Morocco went searching for a third goal. 
In the 65th minute some good inter-play from Morocco saw Tighadouini worked the right flank successfully before cutting back intelligently to set up Youness Mokhtar who controlled well before rifling into the roof of the net the third goal for Pim Verbeek’s side.
 There was a standing ovation for Barrada when he was substituted after 74 minutes to be replaced by Yacine Qasmi and Morocco tried  to slow down the tempo by keeping possession. Hany Ramzy brought in Ahmed Shokri for and in the 80th minute and the substitute got onto the end of a cross only to see his header cannon of the upright and Morocco cleared the the danger. Egyptian pressure continued though and it was another substitute Mohamed Ahmed Abd El Baset shot from the edge of the penalty box and the ball went straight through Itri for Egypt’s second goal. The goal brought deafening silence to the stadium as the nervous home crowd looked cat-whistled for the end of the match. Morocco managed to negotiate the four additional minute unscathed and hung on for a 3-2 win.     
 
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