AN INJURY time goal from Fayza Hidar Elnady lifted Egypt to a 1-0 victory over Jordan last night in their concluding group 'B' match of the Women's Football Cup Arabia 2010.
Just as the tightly contested game appeared to be headed for a goalless draw, Elnady struck from close range literally seconds before the final whistle, stunning the Jordanians who were in control of the match and who had many more chances at breaking the deadlock.
With the result, Egypt claimed their third victory in as many games and they improved to a maximum nine points to finish winners of their division. Jordan dropped to their first defeat and stayed on six points.
Egypt now march on to tomorrow's semi-finals where they face group 'A' runners-up Palestine. Jordan, on the other hand, go up against group 'A' winners and hosts Bahrain. Both final four contests will take place at the National Stadium in Riffa.
The winners then face off in the final scheduled for Thursday, with the losers having to settle for the match for third place on Wednesday.
"This was a really tough match; both teams played well and we are very happy that we were able to get the win in the end," Egypt coach Ahmed Kamaleldin Ahmed said during the post-match Press conference.
"We focused more on our defending in the first half, then in the second we really tried to score."
Coach Ahmed said that the Egyptians are now looking forward to the semi-finals and are pleased to be avoiding Bahrain, who have been rampant in the competition thus far.
"We will prepare our best for our next match with Palestine," he said. "I feel it is good that we are not playing Bahrain; I have been surprised by them in this tournament and they are very good.
"We are a very young team, our players are aged between 18 and 20 and we even have a 13-year-old. We will do our best to make the final."
Jordan coach Maher Abu Hantash congratulated the Egyptians on pulling off the late win, and added: "Our first aim was to qualify; we had already done that, and that is the most important thing, so this loss means little to us.
"A small mistake in defence between our defender and goalkeeper led to their goal, but I was satisfied with my team as they played the best they can. We had our own chances to score, but we did not finish them and that was the difference in the match."
Jordan's Shahnaz Yaseen was their most impressive player. She created a majority of her team's chances in both halves, but they could not finish any of them.
Yaseen had her own great chance to score midway through the second half when her shot from close range was just stopped by Egyptian goalkeeper Fawkia Amri Youssef.
The Egyptians took advantage of those missed chances in the end. Elnady was the first to the ball after a mad scramble in the face of goal, and she sent the ball into the top-left corner of the net.
Speaking of Jordan's next assignment against Bahrain, who they beat 4-1 in a friendly game prior to the tournament, coach Abu Hantash said: "We need to put all our focus on that game now in order to win.
"Bahrain have been impressive in this tournament and they have many great players all over the pitch. My girls must forget that friendly match which we won; it will be totally different from our next game in the semi-finals."
In yesterday's other group 'B' fixture, Lebanon ended their tournament campaign on a high with a comfortable 9-0 triumph over Iraq in a non-bearing contest. The Lebanese were four goals up at half-time.
The result earned Lebanon their lone victory in three games, while Iraq remained winless.
Gulf Daily News: Patrick Salomon