A last gasp goal from star Riyad Mahrez led Algeria to reach the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) final after defeating Nigeria 2-1 at Cairo International Stadium on Sunday night.
They will face their group opponents Senegal in the grand final on Friday at the same venue with the Holy Grail of African football at stake.
A Mahrez cross led to William Troost-Ekong putting the ball into his own net after 40 minutes before VAR (Video Assistant Referee) gave Nigeria a penalty from which Odion Ighalo found the equaliser at the 70th minute. But Mahrez scored a superb freekick to hand Les Fennecs a place in the final four minutes into stoppage time amid wild celebrations from Algerian supporters.
Possession swung between both sides in the first minutes with players looking cautious. The game’s first real chance came at the quarter hour mark from a free kick that Ismael Bennacer sent to Rami Bensabaini, but the defender’s header went just wide.
Baghdad Bounedjah nearly gave Algeria the lead after 29 minutes. Youcef Belaili’s pass found the striker who rounded his marker, but his shot went straight to Nigeria’s goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi hands.
The first real chance for the Super Eagles came after 38 minutes when Alex Iwobi found Odion Ighalo, but the striker’s shot went wide.
Les Fennecs broke the deadlock five minutes from the break. Mahrez sent in a cross that was deflected from Nigeria’s defender Troost-Ekong to his own net giving Algeria the lead at the interval.
Nigeria started the second half on an attacking note trying to find the equaliser, but found a resolute Algerian defence that denied all their attempts. Iwobi tried from distance on the hour mark but missed the target widely.
Algeria tried depending on the counter-attack, but that did not work. And after 70 minutes the game took a turnaround. VAR intervened to give Nigeria a penalty for a handball by Aissa Mandi. Odion Ighalo made no mistake from the spot to tie the game at 1-1.
Algeria players looked fatigued and tried to keep their opponents at bay, relying on Mahrez and Belaili’s speed on counter attacks.
Ismail Bennacer could have given Algeria the lead two minutes into stoppage time but his shot kissed the crossbar.
And it was Mahrez who won the match for Les Fennecs four minutes after the full-time mark when his free-kick was perfectly-placed over the wall and into the net to lead Algeria to the final for the second time in their history and the first since1990.
In partnership with ANA and Mediapix