Sadio Mane’s spot kick earns Senegal first Afcon trophy

Johannesburg – Senegal emerged victorious and were subsequently crowned the African Cup of Nations (Afcon) champions for the first time since the inception of the competition by CAF in 1957 at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde, Cameroon late on Sunday night.

In the 33rd edition of the Afcon competition, the Lions of Teranga finally managed to lift the continent’s major trophy edging past Egypt on a 4-2 penalty shootout win, thanks to a final decider penalty from Senegal’s skipper Sadio Mane.

From villain to hero, Mane missed a penalty as early as the first half but made amends by scoring the winning spot kick after 120 minutes of play to help his national side make history by winning the trophy that have eluded them for years.

The Lions of Teranga goalkeeper Edouard Mendy became a superhero for saving the crucial Egyptian spot kick.

The grand finale between the arch-rivals was otherwise a drab affair, dominated by fouls and clear chances, ending in a goalless draw, where the game had to be decided by the dreaded penalty shootout.

Egypt’s players collapsed on the pitch in tears after South African referee Viktor Gomes blew the final whistle simply because they had failed in their efforts failing to bag their eighth Afcon title.

Penalties have haunted Egypt throughout the tournament, as they sneaked a hard-fought win into quarter finals when they thrashed Ivory Coast 5-4 on penalties.

It wasn’t all over, as they also managed a 3-1 win in penalties win when they sent hosts Cameroon packing, however, this time around luck was not with The Pharaohs team.

In the first half of the epic encounter both teams had their fair share chances, with Senegal dominating until the 90 minutes full time but were unable to find the opener.

It was the perfect start for coach Aliou Cissé’s side when the Lions of Teranga were awarded a penalty however what was supposed to be a lifeline for Senegal, was gridlocked by Egypt’s number one goalkeeper Mohamed Abou Gabal, also known Gabaski, thwarted Mane’s spot kick.

Gabaski has been Egypt’s hero in this tournament for saving crucial penalties against his side.

The Egyptian defence had a lot of work to do as Senegal put immense pressure over The Pharaohs side, who have won the title a record seven times.

Gabaski proved why he wears the number one jersey yet again in extra time when he denied Pape Gueye what could have been a breakthrough for Senegal in the 100th minute of extra time.

While the Egyptians were frustrated by their failure to control the game, Liverpool’s goal scoring machine, Mohammed Salah broke the defence of Senegal, where he passed five opponents, but his strike went in the hands Mendy, who is currently Fifa’s best goalkeeper for 2021.

Egypt’s Mohamed Abdelmonem and Senegal’s Bouna Sarr missed opportunities to find back of the net.

The Pharaohs’ versatile midfielder Mohanad Lasheen’s failed attempt to scoring from the spot resulted to Egypt’s misery, as Senegal walked victorious to become the Afcon champions for the first time in the country’s football history.

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Thomas Lethoba

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