Senegal’s lengthy wait for an Africa Cup of Nations title is eventually over after they won against Egypt 4-2 on penalties in the conclusive at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde on Sunday.
It was an issue of third time lucky for the Teranga Lions, who had before lost in the 2002 and 2019 finals. This time around they got the better of the Pharaohs, who seized the game to a full 120 minutes for the fourth consecutive time at this AFCON, in a shootout after a goalless stalemate.
Senegal launched on the front foot and were granted a penalty as timely as the fourth minute, with overlapping left-back Saliou Ciss tripped by Mohamed Abdelmonem as he ran toward the byline. Referee Victor Gomes did not think twice to point to the area.
Sadio Mane seized the penalty and thundered an action centrally, only to see it palmed away to safety by Egypt gloves-man Mohamed Gabaski.
The Teranga Lions started furthermore to press forward, with Ismaila Sarr a special thorn in the side of the Egyptian defence. The Watford winger double generated 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 trial, weaving his way past a couple of challenges before a low accomplishment which was comfortably carried by Edouard Mendy.
The Senegal goalkeeper made a much quicker 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 closed 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 duration arrived with the score still closed at 0-0.
Senegal proceeded to make most of the attacking play in the first half, with their initial 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 remarkable 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, understanding that Senegal were putting up with 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 changes actually helped to slow Senegal’s momentum. Zizo delivered a great cross from a free kick on 69 minutes, picking out Abdelmonem, but the unmarked defender put his header over the crossbar to shun 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 glance header flashed wide of the target.
That asserteded to be the last clear chance of the regulation 90, with the teams heading to an extra half hour upon the conclusive whistle.
The commencement minute of extra time saw yet more release from goalkeeper Gabaski, who made a fine save low to his left to keep out an effort from substitute Boulaye Dia, as Senegal instantly indicated that they would not just resolve for penalties.
On 100 minutes the Pharaohs ‘keeper created 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 actions to try and prevent a shootout, with Dieng letting fly from long range on 115 minutes and seeing more shot-stopping antics from the outstanding Gabanski, and a short while later at the other end Mendy had to move sharply to tip Zizo’s fierce shot over the crossbar.
Eventually the match ended 0-0 after 120 exhausting minutes, with penalties left to decide the fate of the trophy.
The shootout finished with Mane, who had missed a penalty earlier in the game, firing home to clinch victory for the Teranga Lions after goalkeeper Mendy had saved the last 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’)