Sadio Mane scored from the spot in stoppage time to hand Senegal a dramatic 1-0 win over Zimbabwe in their Africa Cup of Nations
opener at the Kouekong Stadium on Monday.
Aliou Cisse’s side created the better chances throughout, but solid defending from the Warriors appeared to deny them all three points in this Group B
opener before Mane struck from the spot late on.
The Lions of Teranga dominated proceedings in the first half, although the Warriors aided their cause by giving away possession on numerous occasions.
They almost got off to a flyer when Bouna Sarr flashed a shot wide of the left post from inside the D in the opening minute following a loose pass from the opposition.
Keita Balde should have done better on 11 minutes after being picked out inside the area by Mane, but the Cagliari forward skewed his effort high and wide.
The Southern Africans struggled to get out of the own half in the opening quarter of the match and Fode Ballo-Toure threatened again for Senegal with a strike from long range that flew wide of the right post on 19 minutes.
The action quickly switched to the other end as Knowledge Musona found space outside the box, but pulled his shot wide of the left post.
Moments later Sarr had another sniff at goal when his effort rolled agonisingly wide of the far post from an acute angle on the left following a delightful pass from midfield to play him in.
Petros Mhari was finally called into action in the 24th minute as he got down smartly to deny Mane from close range following a powerful run from the Liverpool star down the left flank to burst into the area.
Norman Mapeza’s men were presented with a great opportunity to break the deadlock on 32 minutes when they were awarded a free-kick inside the D for handball, but Musona’s attempted clip sailed both over the wall and the crossbar.
The best chance of the half fell to the West Africans eight minutes later after Mane was released by a long ball over the top. He did well to pick out an unmarked Idrissa Gueye inside the box on the right, only for the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder to take a heavy touch and allow Mhari to gather.
Zimbabwe grew into the game as the first half drew to a close and Bruce Kangwa dragged a shot wide of the far post on 44 minutes after making his way into the area on the left.
Pape Abou Cisse wasted a glorious chance to give Senegal the lead just three minutes after the restart when he directed a free header wide at the back post from a corner.
They went on to control the second half and Abdou Diallo spurned another good opportunity on 69 minutes with a header that cleared the target from Mane’s dangerous free-kick on the left.
Mhari came to his team’s rescue seven minutes later when the Lions of Teranga launched a counter on the right flank, but Boulaye Dia was unable to pick out an unmarked Mane at the back post thanks to good work from the Zimbabwe goalkeeper to cut out the low cross.
The contest ended in dramatic fashion, however, when the referee pointed the spot after he deemed that Peter Muduhwa had handled Ballo-Toure’s shot inside the area. VAR had a look at the incident but allowed the penalty to stand and Mane made no mistake from 12 yards out to snatch a last-gasp victory for the Senegalese.
Senegal (0) 1 (Mane PEN 90′)
Zimbabwe (0) 0
Senegal: Dieng, Mbaye, Cisse, A. Diallo, Ballo-Toure, Sarr, Kouyate, I. Gueye, Dia (P. Gueye 77′), Mane, Balde (H. Diallo 64′).
Zimbabwe: Mhari, Chimwemwe, Takwara, Hadebe, Bhasera, Madzongwe, Wadi, Musona (Tigere 88′), Benyu (Kamusoko 71′), Kangwa, Dube (Kadewere 46′).