Sadio Mane stepped up to the pressure plate to take the decisive penalty even after missing one in normal time and scored as Senegal outdid Egypt to beat them 4-2 on post-match spot kicks at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde on Sunday night to lift their first ever Africa Cup of Nations title.
Mane had seen a fifth minute penalty in regulation time saved by Mohamed Abou Gabal, but after goalkeeper Edouard Mendy had saved Mohanad Lasheen’s penalty, it was now up to Mane to redeem himself.
The Liverpool FC striker made no mistake this time round, striking the ball superbly to the right to dip into the bottom corner as he guided the Lions of Teranga to their maiden continental glory.
While it was a massive relief for Mane, it should have been an even bigger one for coach Aliou Cisse. The tactician was playing at his third final; second as coach. In 2002, he was part of the Senegalese golden generation of players that reached the final for the first time but he lost, seeing his penalty saved against Cameroon.
In 2019, he led Senegal to the final as coach, and they lost to Algeria by a solitary goal. In 2022, justice was served to him and he finally led The Teranga Lions to the promised land.
After a barren draw in regulation time where both sides created opportunities to score, the game had to be decided from 12 yards out.
Skipper Kalidou Koulibaly got the Senegalese off with a low penalty, and despite keeper Gabal having a touch on it, the power was too much behind the ball. Ahmed Mostafa ‘Zizo’ responded for Egypt.
Another central defender, Abou Diallo then scored the second for Senegal, and they were handed a massive lifeline when Mohamed Abdelmonem struck the post despite sending Mendy the wrong way.
However, Senegal failed to take advantage when Bayern Munich right back Bouna Sarr saw his penalty saved by Gabal while Marwan Hamdi scored to tie the scores for Egypt.
Bamba Dieng struck into the roof of the net as Senegal kept the foot up and they were once again handed a huge advantage when Mendy dived to his right to save Mohanad’s kick.
It was now all up to Mane, and he made amends, winning it.
It was a massive relief for Mane, having seen a fifth minute penalty saved. Thanks to some mind games from his Liverpool teammate Mo Salah, Mane’s kick was saved by Abou Gabal.
Salah had stepped up to the keeper to give him a clue on where Mane would place the penalty. Seeing that his Anfield mate was selling him out, Mane cheekily joined the conversation and appeared to point to where he would plant the ball.
The mind games worked for Salah as Mane went straight down the middle, the burly Egyptian back up keeper making a fine save.
The miss seemed to have piled pressure on Mane’s head and he should have done better with two chances that came his way. His calculation with running at two of Ismaila Sarr’s cross from the right were seconds off as he missed connections at the backpost with an open goal.
Salah had a chance for Egypt on 28 minutes when he danced inside the box to find shooting space, but his eventual shot was easily saved by Mendy. He had another opportunity three minutes to half time with a curler on his favourite left, but Mendy once again made a decisive save.
Egypt were more adventurous moving forward in the second half and they had more chances with Hamdi Fathi heading over from a Zizo freekick while substitute Hamdi Mohamed also had a header go narrowly wide.
In extra time Senegal had the chances when Egypt decided to sit back. Bamba Dieng forcing two saves from Gabal, one with a header from a Ciss cross while his second was off a rasping shot from distance.
With four minutes left, Egypt had a golden chance to win the game when Zizo found shooting space inside the box, but keeper Mendy, duly named goalkeeper of the tournament, made a glorious save to deny him.
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