Algeria Sink Senegal 1-0 To Claim A Second African Cup Of Nations

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Algerian players
Algerian players

Algeria won the Africa Cup of Nations for the second time as a freak early goal secured a 1-0 win against Senegal in the final in Cairo.

Baghdad Bounedjah’s shot took a huge deflection off Salif Sane and looped over goalkeeper Alfred Gomes.

Senegal, who have never won the competition, were awarded a penalty for handball in the second half but it was overturned after a VAR review.

Algeria closed out the rest of the game to win their first title since 1990.

Senegal’s players collapsed on the pitch in tears at the final whistle.

Liverpool forward Sadio Mane, who said before the game he would swap his Champions League winners medal for Africa Cup of Nations success, looked disconsolate as Algeria players celebrated around him.

“Without the players I am nothing,” said Algeria boss Djamel Belmadi. “They are the main ones. I suppose the staff played its part in guiding the players but they applied the instructions incredibly well.”

Senegal, making only their second appearance in the final since 2002, dominated for large periods but struggled to make the most of their possession.

M’Baye Niang was at the centre of two of their best chances as he flashed a fierce drive over the bar just before the break, and rounded keeper Rais M’bolhi early in the second half only to shoot wide from a tight angle.

M’Bolhi also did well to palm over a stinging effort from Youssouf Sabaly.

The decisive moment for Senegal was the reversal of the decision to award a penalty on the hour mark.

Ismaila Sarr’s cross was blasted straight at Adlene Guedioura’s arm, referee Neant Alioum pointed to the spot, but, just as the Senegal players started celebrating the decision, he quickly indicated that a VAR review was under way.

After watching the replays on the pitch-side monitor, which clearly showed Guedioura’s arm being by his side, Alioum reversed the decision.

Although the decision was correct, the result was harsh on Senegal, with Algeria managing only one shot on goal.

The game was billed by many as a battle between Liverpool’s Mane and Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez, but both were on the periphery of this encounter.

Mahrez’s lack of contribution was largely down to Algeria’s defensive approach after taking the lead, but Mane will perhaps be disappointed with his input.

He was clearly the player Algeria fans feared most – every touch of the ball was met with boos – but he showed only glimpses of his pace and danger on the ball, possibly showing the signs of fatigue following a long season for club and country.

It is 363 days since Mane began pre-season with Liverpool – and he will only have a couple of weeks rest before the new campaign gets under way on 9 August.

Meanwhile, Odion Ighalo boosted his chances of winning the Golden Boot at the Africa Cup of Nations on Wednesday after he netted Nigeria’s winner to ensure his side third place in the tournament with a 1-0 victory over Tunisia.

The 30-year-old Shanghai Shenhua forward struck the only goal of the match just 130 seconds after the kick-off before a small crowd at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo.

Ighalo pounced from close range when Jamilu Collins’ cross led to a mix-up between Tunisia goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifia and defender Yassine Meriah.

It was his fifth goal at the tournament and puts him two ahead of closest rivals Riyad Mahrez, Adam Ounas, Cedric Bakambu and Sadio Mane, who have three goals each.

Algerians Mahrez and Ounas and Senegal’s Mane have a chance to increase their totals when the two countries face off in Friday’s final at the Cairo International Stadium.

Ighalo, who was the leading scorer in the 2019 qualifying competition with seven goals, left the field just before half-time with a pulled hamstring.

Tunisia had little to offer in attack and it took 57 minutes before they had a goal attempt on target.

Nigeria maintained their perfect record in third place playoffs at the Cup of Nations having won six other matches between the beaten semi-finalists.

The first of those successes came in 1978 against Tunisia in a match abandoned just before half-time when the north Africans stormed off to protest a disputed Nigerian equaliser.

Nigeria were awarded a 2-0 victory in Ghana and have now won six other playoffs, including three in a row between 2002 and 2006.

(BBC/AFP)