Goalkeeper Lionel Mpasi scored the 18th penalty of a nerve-shredding shoot-out as DR Congo produced the latest shock at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations by knocking seven-time champions Egypt out to reach the quarter-finals following a 1-1 draw after extra time.
DR Congo went ahead for the first time at the finals when Meschack Elia nodded in Yoane Wissa’s cross to put the team ranked 67th in the world on course for the latest surprise result at a tournament which has been illuminated by underdog success in Ivory Coast.
Their lead lasted nine minutes before Mostafa Mohamed converted a penalty on the stroke of half-time after Ahmed Hegazi was caught by a flailing arm from Dylan Batubinsika.
Egypt finished with 10 men after left-back Mohamed Hamdy was shown a second yellow card seven minutes into extra time for a mistimed lunge on Simon Banza.
And, after Pharaohs keeper Gabaski had clipped the top of the crossbar in the ninth round of the shoot-out, Mpasi stepped up to win it 8-7 on penalties.
In the absence of injured captain Mohamed Salah, Rui Vitoria’s team ended the tournament winless and suffered the same fate as they did in the 2021 final, when they were beaten on penalties by Senegal.
An unmarked Hegazi headed an early first-half chance over from seven yards out and substitute Mahmoud Hamada lost his footing from a presentable opportunity late in normal time, but the Leopards were worthy winners and could have gone ahead sooner had the lively Elia not lashed an effort over in the third minute.
The shoot-out saw both sides miss from their second attempts, with Mohamed side-footing wide of the right-hand upright and Arthur Masuaku immediately scooping the ball over the crossbar for the Central Africans.
But Mpasi kept his composure to slot into the top right-hand corner against Gabaski, who had been a penalty-saving specialist in Egypt’s run to the final in Cameroon two years ago.
DR Congo will play Guinea in the quarter-finals at Abidjan’s Alassane Ouattara Stadium on Friday (20:00 GMT) after the Syli National beat Equatorial Guinea 1-0 earlier on Sunday.
Egypt exit Afcon on penalties again
If a knockout-stage meeting between two sides who have drawn all three of their group games is a rarity, it was less of a surprise when the contest on a rapid counter-attack before lofting a wild finish high over the bar.
The move which broke the deadlock eight minutes before the break started with a piece of quick thinking by Masuaku, releasing Wissa on the left with a throw-in which allowed the Brentford attacker to enter the penalty area and clip a cross via a deflection into the path of Elia to head in on the line.
Egypt were missing one of the early stars of the finals, Emam Ashour, because of concussion, while goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy, who suffered a dislocated shoulder during their final group-stage game, was replaced by Gabaski.
The North Afrcans may have been lacking the talismanic Salah in attack, but Mohamed, initially proved his reliability again from the spot to equalise with his fourth goal of the finals.
Hegazi had gone down in a heap following Batubinsika’s aerial challenge, leading South African referee Abongile Tom to book the crestfallen centre-back for a stray arm following a VAR review and check on his pitch-side monitor.
Chances were few and far between in the second half, but Cedric Bakambu arrived ahead of Hegazi to meet Elia’s inviting cross after the winger escaped down the right, stabbing a first-time finish just wide at the near post.
Chancel Mbemba headed Masuaku’s cross over the target, and the Leopards needed Mpasi to react smartly when Hamdi Fath’s clever flick allowed Zizo to accurately fire in a fierce shot from a tight angle.
But Hamada had the goal to aim at when Zizo located him at the far post shortly after his late introduction, only to lose his feet as the cross dribbled behind him in a let-off for his accommodating markers.
With penalties looming, Egypt had more defending to do once Hamdy had been dismissed for a foul which left Banza clutching an ankle in pain.
West Brom midfielder Grady Diangana narrowly failed to connect as the ball bounced tantalisingly across Egypt’s six-yard box, prefacing a finale in which the more established contenders seemed understandably content to play for time rather than attack with intent.
Mpasi appeared to be studying instructive photos of Egypt’s potential penalty attempts as the teams gathered before the final act, but Gabaski might have reminded himself of the four spot kicks across three shoot-outs he kept out at the 2021 finals, as well as Sadio Mane’s first-half effort in the final.
As it was, the player of the match on that occasion could only rattle the crossbar when he was called upon to take one himself this time, the consequence of a string of finishes which gave neither goalkeeper many chances to become a hero.
- 23Abou Gabal Ali
- 3Gamal Eldemerdash
- 24Mohamed Ahmed
- 13MohamedSubstituted forHamdy Mahmoud Sharfedinat 45′minutesBooked at 97mins
- 17ElnenySubstituted forAhmed Abdelmonemat 112′minutes
- 14GhallabBooked at 80minsSubstituted forHamada Awadat 83′minutes
- 5Abdel FattahBooked at 58minsSubstituted forAbdel Wahedat 100′minutes
- 25SayedSubstituted forAbdel Hameid Mohamed Abdallaat 90′minutes
- 7TrézéguetSubstituted forMarmoushat 83′minutes
- 1Moawad El Shenawy
- 4Abdel Wahed
- 9Mohamed Mahgoub
- 12Hamdy Mahmoud Sharfedin
- 15El Hanafi
- 18Abdel Hameid Mohamed Abdalla
- 20Hamada Awad
- 27Ahmed Abdelmonem
- 22MbembaBooked at 115mins
- 5BatubinsikaBooked at 45minsSubstituted forInongaat 65′minutes
- 10BongondaBooked at 102mins
- 18PickelSubstituted forTshibolaat 79′minutes
- 13EliaSubstituted forDianganaat 105+2′minutes
- 17BakambuSubstituted forBanzaat 65′minutes
- 20WissaSubstituted forKatompa Mvumpaat 88′minutes
- 11Katompa Mvumpa
- Abongile Tom
Match ends, Egypt 1(7), Congo DR 1(8).