|Sadio Mane celebrates after firing in the winning penalty on Sunday to hand Senegal the AFCON trophy. (Photo credit: CAF Online)|
Sadio Mane went from villain to the hero in Sunday’s AFCON finals at the Olembe Stadium to hand Senegal her first continental title after a scoreless affair in regulation time.
Senegal squared up with Egypt at the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday with both sides featuring their best legs as they auditioned for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers playoffs after being pitched together once again.
Liverpool duo of Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane went head-to-head and as early as the fifth minute, an incident brought them together. Senegal were awarded a penalty which Mane was to take, Salah was pictured advising his goalkeeper Mohammed Abougabal on where to dive, Mane walked up to them and pointed in a direction out of sarcasm, that seemed to have entered his head as his penalty was saved.
Egypt head coach Carlos Queiroz was in the stands for the final after he was sent off in the semifinal against Cameroon, he watched on as his goalkeeper made saves after saves to keep the match goalless for the entirety of the game including added time.
The game went into penalties and most would have leaned towards an Egypt win as they were bent on defending their way to the title, relying on penalties and slim wins throughout the tourney but it didn’t go as planned in the end.
Egypt blinked first as Mohamed Adbolomen struck the woodwork in the second round, handing Senegal the advantage but the amazing Egyptian keeper rose to the rescue in the third round, saving from Bouma Sarr to make it 2-2.
In the fourth round, 2022 FIFA The Best award winner Mendy stooped low, saving Mohanad Lasheen's effort to put Senegal in front once more. And some 2 hours and 40 minutes after having his first-half penalty saved, Mane returned to the spot and slotted home the winner with a right-footed effort.
"We're African champions," Senegal head coach Aliou Cisse said after the match. "It's been long, it's been hard, and there have been complicated moments, but we never gave up.
Egypt’s stand in coach Diiya El-Sayed said: "It's the fourth we've played for 120 minutes, and I want to thank the guys for their performance.
"I also want to congratulate Senegal for winning the cup.
"We want to apologize to the Egyptian population, but our boys played well, they put in a lot of effort. This is football."