Sunday Feb 06, 2022. 23:20
Senegal’s long wait for an Africa Cup of Nations title is finally over after they defeated Egypt 4-2 on penalties in the final at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde on Sunday.
It was a case of third time lucky for the Teranga Lions, who had previously lost in the 2002 and 2019 finals. This time around they got the better of the Pharaohs, who took the game to a full 120 minutes for the fourth successive time at this AFCON, in a shootout after a goalless stalemate.
Senegal started on the front foot and were awarded a penalty as early as the fourth minute, with overlapping left-back Saliou Ciss tripped by Mohamed Abdelmonem as he raced toward the byline. Referee Victor Gomes did not hesitate to point to the spot.
Sadio Mane took the penalty and thundered an effort centrally, only to see it palmed away to safety by Egypt gloves-man Mohamed Gabaski.
The Teranga Lions continued to press forward, with Ismaila Sarr a particular thorn in the side of the Egyptian defence. The Watford winger twice created chances for Mane with crosses from the right flank, but both times the ball had just too much pace for the latter to capitalise.
The Pharaohs had their first shot on target in the 28th minute, and unsurprisingly it was Mohamed Salah who had the attempt, weaving his way past a couple of challenges before a low effort which was comfortably held by Edouard Mendy.
The Senegal goalkeeper made a much sharper save at his left-hand post from another Salah effort late in the first half, with the Liverpool forward whipping a left-footed shot toward the top corner from a tight angle.
Yet the Salah shots were the exception rather than the rule, with the West Africans bossing play and looking the sharper, fresher team. Despite this, the interval arrived with the score still locked at 0-0.
Senegal continued to make most of the attacking play in the first half, with their first effort on goal after the break a low shot from Nampalys Mendy in the 50th minute which was straight at Gabaski.
The Egyptian ‘keeper made a far more impressive intervention three minutes later when he smothered the ball at the feet of Mane after more penetrative play down the right from Ismaila Sarr.
The North Africans, sensing that Senegal were taking ever greater control of the game, made a triple change just before the hour mark, with Marwan Hamdi, Ahmed Zizo and Mahmoud Trezeguet rising off the bench.
The substitutions certainly helped to slow Senegal’s momentum. Zizo provided a great cross from a free kick on 69 minutes, picking out Abdelmonem, but the unmarked defender put his header over the crossbar to spurn Egypt’s first chance of the second stanza.
Five minutes later Marwan Hamdi got on the end of a cross from the left flank by Ahmed El Fotouh, but his glancing header flashed wide of the target.
That proved to be the last clear chance of the regulation 90, with the teams heading to an extra half hour upon the final whistle.
The opening minute of extra time saw yet more heroics from goalkeeper Gabaski, who made a fine save low to his left to keep out an effort from substitute Boulaye Dia, as Senegal immediately showed that they would not just settle for penalties.
On 100 minutes the Pharaohs ‘keeper made another notable save, diving to his left to tip away a downward, goal-bound header from Bamba Dieng, while the resulting corner kick saw Abdou Diallo power a header off target.
Senegal did not give up their efforts to try and avoid a shootout, with Dieng letting fly from long range on 115 minutes and seeing more shot-stopping antics from the excellent Gabanski, and a short while later at the other end Mendy had to move sharply to tip Zizo’s fierce shot over the crossbar.
Ultimately the match ended 0-0 after 120 exhausting minutes, with penalties left to decide the destination of the trophy.
The shootout ended with Mane, who had missed a penalty early in the game, firing home to clinch victory for the Teranga Lions after goalkeeper Mendy had saved the previous kick from Mohanad Lasheen.
After extra time – Senegal won 4-2 on penalties
Senegal: E. Mendy, B. Sarr, Koulibaly, Diallo, Ciss, Kouyate (P. Gueye 66’), N. Mendy, I. Gueye, I. Sarr (Dia 77’), Mane, Diedhiou (Dieng 77’)
Egypt: Gabaski, Ashour, Abdelmonem, Mah. Hamdi, El Fotouh, Fathi (Lasheen 99’), Elneny, El Solia (Trezeguet 59’), Salah, Marmoush (Zizo 59’), Mohamed (Mar. Hamdi 59’)