Ivory Coast manager Patrice Beaumelle has called Eric Bailly a “big champion” after his penalty was saved in their last-16 shoot-out defeat to Egypt at the African Cup of Nations.

The Manchester United centre-back saw his spot-kick tipped on to the bar, and the Elephants were knocked out 5-4 on penalties, following a normal draw.

What made matters worst was that it was Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah who scored the winning penalty.

Despite suffering penalty heartache, Beaumelle has leapt to the defence of United’s number three.

Ivory Coast v Egypt - AFCON Africa Cup Of Nations Cameron 2021
Photo by Ayman Aref/NurPhoto via Getty Images

“He was crying and it was very hard,” Beaumelle told BBC Sport Africa.

“I hugged him and I just said ‘You are a big champion’.”

After missing the last match against Algeria due to a head injury, the 27-year-old returned to the side with a place in the quarter-finals on the line.

Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images

The Ivorian was wearing a rugby scrum cap for protection and produced a dominant performance, which Manchester United fans loved, across the 120 minutes.

But after taking off the protective cap for his penalty, substitute Egypt keeper Gabaski pulled off a pivotal save to thwart Bailly from 12 yards.

Nevertheless, Beaumelle had nothing but praise for the former Villarreal man.

Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images

“What he has done during the competition, he has shown that he is a big champion,” the Frenchman added.

“All the big champions miss penalties, I have so many examples.

“I think the goalkeeper did well. He saved two or three chances in extra-time and saved the penalty from Eric.

“You know, when you lose on penalties you have nothing else to say. I am very sad for the boys because my feeling was we could go very far in this competition.”

Ivory Coast v Egypt - AFCON Africa Cup Of Nations Cameron 2021
Photo by Ayman Aref/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Eric Bailly reacts to AFCON penalty miss

Following last night’s heart-breaking exit, Bailly has today posted a passionate and emotional message on Instagram.

The post translates: “Painful elimination of the African Cup of Nations.

“I am at a loss of words to describe my disappointment and disillusionment. Proud and grateful to have been able to compete in this competition surrounded by such a great team.

“Thanks to the supporters for being with us.

“We will rise again. The one who is the one who is the best.”

Norwich City v Manchester United - Premier League
Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

Once the dust has settled after Eric Bailly’s penalty miss, he will return to Manchester and look to build on the two starts he has made under interim boss Ralf Rangnick.

After missing the last five games, Bailly could come back into the side for our FA Cup fourth round tie against Middlesbrough at Old Trafford.

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