What you need to know:
- The veteran opposite made an instant impact, producing two kills and a crucial block that left Egypt on the brink of victory
- It’s the young Mohamed Asran who won the match for the Pharaohs with a brilliant ace to cap his impressive display from the bench which saw him contribute 11 points
- It was a befitting coronation for the Pharaohs and a timely revenge against Algeria who were the only team that beat them in this competition, a 3-0 thrashing in the group stage
In Cairo, Egypt
Cometh the hour, cometh the man!
Legendary Egypt captain Ahmed Salah stepped off the bench to inspire Egypt to a 3-1 ((25-22,25-18,20-25,25-22) win over Algeria that saw them reclaim the African Nations Championship here at the Cairo International Stadium on Wednesday.
With Egypt leading 2-1 in set scores and the fourth set evenly poised at 19-19, Egypt coach Flavio Gulinelli introduced Salah for Haikal Reda in a bid to boost his attack.
And it worked like magic, with Salah’s experience proving crucial. The veteran opposite had an instant impact, producing two kills and a crucial block that left Egypt on the brink of victory.
"Coaching is all about instincts. I felt we needed Salah and I turned to him and told him,' Be ready, I need you'. He told me ,'Any moment'. I did not hesitate because I made this decision with my heart not my mind.
"I am very happy for him because he demonstrated what a leader he is. Not only today but throughout the tournament. To have a legend like him, the best player in Egypt for a long time, a captain sitting on the bench it's not easy but he did it for the team without complaining," Gulinelli waxed lyrical about his captain.
It’s the young Mohamed Asran who won the match for the Pharaohs with a brilliant ace to cap his impressive display from the bench which saw him contribute 11 points.
Reda led Egypt with 15 points (14 kills, 1 ace) and he was supported by middle blocker Abdelrahman Seoudy and outside hitter Mohamed Mostafa who both tallied 14 points.
Boudjemaa Ikken replied for Algeria with a game-high 21 points (18 kills, 2 blocks, 1 ace).
It was a befitting coronation for the Pharaohs and a timely revenge against Algeria who were the only team that beat them in this competition, a 3-0 thrashing in the group stage.
"This win is for everyone in this hall today, the fans, the players who were with us since we started preparations, the staff and everyone in Egypt. I want to thank the fans who were close to us today and we felt them throughout the game.
"I urge them to follow the team in all matches because they have shown that Egyptian volleyball deserves support from fans. I hope this win will make a good bond between the fans, the team and the federation," said Gulinelli.
When Ahmed Shafik limped out injured early in the second set, the general expectation was that Egypt would struggle not least because the outside had starred for the Pharaohs in their 3-1 semi-final win over Cameroon on Monday night with a game-high 25 points.
On this night, he had contributed six points (all kills) as Egypt chased Algeria from 17-14 in the first set to equalize at 20-20. Reda’s kill gave Egypt the set point and Mohamed Mostafa’s ace from the next rally deservedly secured the hosts the first set at 25-22.
"I want to pass my biggest hug to Ahmed who suffered an injury during the match. I still don't know the entity but I hope it's not so bad for him. He is in our heart and really deserved to get an award," said Gulinelli.
Asran replaced Shafik with the scores reading 2-1 in the second set and Egypt went further ahead at 5-2 when Abdelrahman Seoudy stopped Boudjemma Ikken with a monster block. Another stuff block by Egypt’s skipper Youssef Hossam on Soufiane Hosni put them ahead before Reda carried them almost single-handedly over the line.
First, he made a sideout before at 17-12 before adding four more points to his tally that left Egypt on the brink of victory at 21-17. Seoudy neatly killed an overpass from Hosni to put Egypt 2-0 up.
"Today we made a lot of mistakes in reception and serve which is key to winning a volleyball match. In this kind of level you have to be good in all departments in order to win," said Algeria coach Bernaoui Krimo.
Yet Algeria refused to give up racing to a 4-1 lead in the third set thanks to Ikken’s kill. Egypt came to within a point of Algeria at 11-10 through Asran’s kill but it was Ikken who produced a clever tip to restore Algeria’s healthy lead at 16-12 forcing Gulinelli to call for a second timeout.
Two serve errors from Egypt’s Asran and setter Youssef Hossam gifted Algeria the set at 25-20 and a ray of hope that they could take this match into overtime.
The fourth set was evenly contested until Ikken gave Algeria a two-point lead with a kill from the back row. Mostafa restored parity for the Pharaohs at 14-14 but Ikken once again put Algeria ahead with two points when he fired an ace.
The pattern of the early exchanges resumed as Egypt levelled the game at 19-19 through a risky tip from Asran. Then Gulinelli turned to his captain Salah who made the difference and delivered the title they last won in 2015.
"Our players were in a hurry to finish the game We weren't patient so we made mistakes in critical moments and gave a chance to Egypt to recover and win the game," noted Krimo.