Senegal and Guinea through to AFCON last 16
Though in an unconvincing manner, in 2019 losing finalists Senegal and Guinea through to AFCON last 16 at the Africa Cup of Nations after finishing first and second in Group B despite unconvincing results on Tuesday in the last round of pool matches.
Senegal failed to score in open play for a third consecutive game, but proceeded top of the group with five points after playing to a 0-0 draw with Malawi in Baffousam.
In Younde, Guinea were beaten 2-1 by Zimbabwe, who were already qualified but edged out Malawi for second spot on head to head basis. The two sides finish the group phase with four points each.
Malawi will now have to wait for all group matches to conclude to see if they have done enough to proceed to the knockout phases for the first time ever as one of the best four third placed teams.
The Flames will look back at the result against Senegal and feel hard done especially when they thought they should have had a penalty in the 75th minute when Gomezgani Chirwa appeared to have been hauled back inside the box by Bouna Sarr.
Referee Ngwa Yuven had immediately after the incident pointed straight to the spot but upon consultation with the VAR officials, was advised to have a second look at the incident on the pitchside monitors.
After a second review, the Cameroonian official rescinded his decision and instead given a drop ball back to Senegal.
The Lions of Teranga lack the cutting edge infront of goal, despite their forward line being led by the razor sharp Sadio Mane. They have only scored once in three games, a late penalty in their 1-0 victory over Zimbabwe, converted by Mane.
Against Malawi, the Liverpool forward had the best chance of the first half to break the deadlock when he raced to a Bouna Sarr cross from the right, but his attempt at clipping the ball over the advancing keeper went over.
The Senegalese were almost punished when the returning Kalidou Koulibaly lost the ball cheaply in a dangerous area and the ball pushed to Khuda Myaba. However, the striker’s rasping shot flew inches over goal.
In the 32nd minute, the Malawians had another chance from a freekick. Gabadinho Mhango took a low effort which deflected against the wall, but luckily for the Senegalese the ball spiralled inches wide.
The red hot Orlando Pirates man had another chance five minutes later when he chested the ball down beautifully inside the box to face the keeper one on one, but was bullied off it by the two efforts of Koulibaly and Abdou Diallo.
Keeper Edouard Mendy, also making his first AFCON start had to make an adjusted save at the stroke of halftime when he had to tip over the ball for a corner off Chirwa’s chipped effort from the left.
In the second half, Senegal had chances, most from set pieces. Three minutes after the restart, defender Diallo spurned a glorious opportunity when a freekick from Sarr found him unmarked inside the box, but his header was well saved by the keeper.
The defender had a similar opportunity in the 53rd minute and this time couldn’t angle his header on target. On the hour mark, Idrissa Gueye had a chance from a tight angle with another freekick, hitting it on target but the keeper parried it away.
-Guinea 1-2 Zimbabwe-
Meanwhile away in Yaounde, Guinea lost 2-1 to Zimbabwe who bowed out of the tournament on a high with three points at least.
Knowledge Musona had given the Zimbabweans the lead after 26 minutes with a well weighted lone header from inside the box off Never Tigere’s recycled ball from a poorly defended corner.
The Warriors went to the break with a two goal margin after Kudakwashe Mahachi added the second two minutes to the breather with a low shot from outside the area after being flicked on by Admiral Muskwe,
Guinea halved the deficit in the second half through a sensational left footed strike from skipper Naby Keita, but they couldn’t complete the fight back to earn maximum points.
For the round of 16, Senegal will face off with one of the third placed finishers from either Group A, C or D. Guinea will take on the runner up from Group F which is one of either Gambia, Malawi or Tunisia.