Algeria have qualified for their third World Cup after a play-off victory over six-time African champions Egypt...
Algeria beat Egypt 1-0 on Wednesday night at the El Merriekh Stadium in Sudan in a 2010 World Cup play-off match to qualify for next year's showpiece event in South Africa.
Algeria scored what would later prove to be the match winner in the 40th minute when Antar Yahia reached the end of a deep cross by Karim Ziani before he blasted a shot into the roof of the net from about eight yards, giving Egypt goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary no chance.
It was a sweet revenge for Algeria, who were denied a trip to the 1990 World Cup by Egypt.
Both regional rivals had finished equal on points and goal difference in the qualifying tournament for the 2010 World Cup and so a play-off at a neutral venue was needed to determine which of the teams would feature in South Africa.
Egypt were favourites to win this game, but Algeria were more fired-up and played to their strengths to get the result they so badly craved.
Algeria kicked off inside a jammed, very noisy El Merriekh Stadium but it was Egypt who launched the first attack through Saturday goal hero Emad Moteab, but goalkeeper Fawzi Chaouchi, standing in for the suspended first-choice Lounes Gaouaoui, saved easily.
The bitterness riding on this play-off began to show as early as the second minute when Nadir Belhadj was booked for a foul on Ahmed Al Muhamadi.
And two minutes later, a melee ensued after Egypt skipper Ahmed Hassan was fouled by an Algerian defender as several angry players came close to blows.
Abdel Zaher El Sakka's powerful header off a corner by Mohamed Aboutrika after five minutes was also saved by the Algeria goalkeeper.
Algeria began to attack their opponents as well and in the 15th minute, Yahia's shot from inside the six yard was blocked by El Hadary. It was the best chance in the match thus far.
The game swung from one end of the pitch to the other as both teams went in search of the opening goal. The pace of the game was unrelenting at this stage even if the football by both gladiators was not a free-flowing spectacle thanks to the high tension and drama accompanying this clash.
Just before the half hour mark, more players got into the referee's bad book - Abdelkader Ghezzal for Algeria in the 21st minute and Egypt defender Wael Gomaa, back from suspension, five minutes later.
El Hadary was forced to tip a dipping free kick for a corner kick in the 29th minute and just moments later, Al Muhamadi was denied by the diving Algeria goalkeeper when he fired from inside the box.
In the 38th minute, Belhadj was left off the hook by referee Eddy Maillet after a high challenge on skipper Hassan. Had the Portsmouth ace been booked again, he would have received his marching orders.
Then came the Algerian goal two minutes later by the Germany-based Yahia, meaning the two regional rivals went into the dressing room with Les Fennecs enjoying the upper hand.
From the interval, Egypt made two attacking substitutions - Mohamed Zidan and Hany Abd Rabo.
Algeria continued with their robust style with Karim Ziani getting a booking for a foul on Aboutrika in the 49th minute. Hassan Yebda will be the fourth Algerian to go into the referee's book in the 53rd minute for another rough challenge on an Egyptian player.
Egypt began to probe for an equaliser, while Algeria were content with containing them.
It was a good spell for the African champions as their opponents were completely on the back foot.
However, against the run of play Algeria could have doubled their lead in the 60th minute but El Hadary was alert to the danger caused by Saifi's close range header before Gomaa cleared to safety. A minute later Moteab was denied by the impressive Chaouchi after a great solo run by substitute Zidan.
Algeria tried to slow down the game, while also launching counter attacks.
Les Fennecs managed this tactic until the end to ensure they will feature at their third World Cup finals after previous appearances in 1982 and 1986 as they got a wild victory party going immediately after the referee blew the final whistle.
Samm Audu, Goal.com