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Senegal emerges victorious over Egypt to claim first AFCON trophy

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Safiu Kehinde

Senegal clinched their first African Cup of Nations title after Eduoard Mendy’s heroic save and Sadio Mane’s penalty conversion saw them through the penalty shootout against Egypt at the Olembe Stadium, Yaoundé.

The Lions of Teranga engaged the Pharaohs of Egypt in a fight to finish as both teams failed to find the back of the net all through the regular 90 minutes of play. Despite their dominant display which provided six shots on target and five off target, Senegal could not get the best out of Egyptian goalkeeper and eventual man of the match, Mohamed Abougabal. The prolific goalkeeper denied Senegal number of chances which forced the game into extra time.

Abougabal’s heroism started at the early minutes of the first-half when he denied Sadio Mane from the penalty spot after Mohamed Abdelmonem tripped a Senegalese in the penalty box seven minutes into the game. Abougabal would later deny Ismail Sarr a chance to put the Senegalese upfront before the half-time whistle.

Progressing into the second-half, Senegal continued their dominance of the match against the Mohammed Salah led Egyptians. Abougabal was all Egypt had to thank as the keeper made bounty of saves to keep the fierce Mane-led Senegalese attack at bay. Sadio Mane created clinical chances for Senegal including a late minutes through ball into Egypt’s box. His pass was, however, deflected by Egypt defenders.

On the other hand, Eduoard Mendy had to reserve his heroism till the penalty shootout as he was less busy during the match, thanks to the defensive prowess of Senegal’s captain, Kalidou Koulibay and Saliou Ciss who pocketed Liverpool star, Mohammed Salah all through the match. Just as his Liverpool teammate, Salah could not break through Senegal’s watertight defense.

After the end of the extra time, both teams were to settle their scores through penalty shootout with Egypt pitched as the favorites to win due to their penalty success record so far in the tournament.

Contrary to expectations, Kalidou Koulibay put Senegal into the lead as he successfully converted the first penalty. Egypt, however, levelled up after Zizou sent Mendy the wrong way. Senegal kept their momentum and hope for victory after Abdou Diallo put the second penalty past Abougabal.

Tension arose immediately at the Egyptians’ end after Abdel Monem failed to convert the second spot kick. His attempt had successfully sent Edouard Mendy the wrong way, only to be denied by the woodwork. With Senegal having the advantage to nail the Egyptians, Abougabal rose to the occasion as he cleared out Senegal’s third attempt. Marwan Hamid levelled the scores again as he put Egypt’s third penalty past Mendy.

Still determined to have their hands of their first AFCON trophy, Senegal put the Egyptians on the edge of their seats as Bamba Dieng calmly slotted the fourth penalty past Abougabal.

It was all down to Mendy to make history for the Lions of Teranga and he did not disappoint as he saved Mostafa Lasheen attempt. Understanding what Mendy’s save meant, the fate of Senegal was placed on Sadio Mane’s hand as he walked up to take the last kick of the game. As calm as he could, he came, he saw, and conquered. Senegal won the match by 4-2 and earned their first AFCON title.

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