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Senegal beat plucky Egypt for first AFCON title

By Gowon Akpodonor, Yaoundé 
07 February 2022   |   2:49 am
Senegal had the last laugh, last night, when they defied Egypt goalkeeper, Mohamed Abou Gamal’s heroics to beat The Pharaohs via a penalty shoot out to win their first Africa Cup of Nations title.

Egypt’s forward Mohamed Salah walks past the trophy after loosing the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 final football match between Senegal and Egypt at Stade d’Olembe in Yaounde on February 6, 2022. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)

Senegal had the last laugh, last night when they defied Egypt goalkeeper, Mohamed Abou Gamal’s heroics to beat The Pharaohs via a penalty shoot-out to win their first Africa Cup of Nations title.

Pundits gave the Senegalese, led by Liverpool’s Sadio Mane, the title even before the match kicked off a the Olembe Stadium Yaoundé. But they had to contend with an Egypt team with a magical Gamal, also known as Gabasky.

If the tie were to be decided by points, on the balance of play, Senegal would have not needed the penalty shoot out for victory. But in a technically disciplined Egypt, the Teranga Lions’ possession and countless forays into Egypt’s box could not yield the desired result throughout 120 minutes.

The match, watched by a full Olembe stadium, including FIFA President, Gianni Infantino and the top wigs of world football, started on a dramatic note when Senegal were awarded a penalty just minutes into the first half.

Given the opportunity to take the lead even before some of the fans settled down in the stands, Senegal’s talisman, Sadio Mane, could not defy his club mate, Mohamed Salah, to put the ball beyond Gabasky.

Referee Victor Gomes awarded the spot-kick when Egypt right back, Mohamed Abdelmonem, chopped down Saliou Cisse. It was a golden opportunity for Mane to put his side ahead.

But his Liverpool teammate, Salah, told Gabasky where to expect the kick. Salah was right, as the shot-stopper, later named as Man-of-the-match, kept out Mane’s shot to keep scores goalless.

The tension between Salah and Mane was evident during the discussions with the Egypt goalkeeper before the penalty was taken.

That set the tone for a game dominated by Senegal’s forays and Egypt’s masterly defence.

Despite the quick start to the game, it ended goalless after 90 minutes, meaning Egypt went to extra time for the third match in a row.

Kalidou Koulibaly and Abdou Diallo scored for Senegal with their first two attempts. Zizo scored Egypt’s first, but Abdelmonem hit the post with their second effort.

Then Bouna Sarr missed for Senegal, and Egypt restored parity with Mahmoud Alaa.

Bamba Dieng tucked away Senegal’s next effort into the roof of the net, and then Mendy saved Mohanad Lasheen.

It meant Mane just had to put his away to win it – before Salah would even get the chance to respond. And Mane made no mistake this time to win the shootout.

The final, yesterday, is the first of three of the most important matches involving Egypt and Senegal.

Next moth, both teams will meet again in two Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying matches. The winner over two legs will get the opportunity to play at this year’s World Cup. Burt for now, Senegal will be content to savour their first-ever African title.