Senegal Wins First Ever AFCON Title

Senegal crowned champions of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations after beating the Pharaohs of Egypt on  4-2 penalties in the final clash played on Sunday night at Olembe Stadium, Yaounde.

The game ended goalless after extra time, but the Teranga Lions finally won their first title in their third appearance in the final courtesy of a penalty shootout. 

It was the end of a month-long championship in Cameroon that saw 24 teams compete for the biggest title in African football. The tournament taking place in the middle of the European club football season caused a lot of uproar as hundreds of players departed from their clubs to represent their countries. 

But Sunday’s final brought together the continent’s biggest stars in Mane and Mohamed Salah alongside their supporting cast to fight for the title.

Senegal started the game the stronger side as they earned an early penalty after Saliou Ciss was brought down in the box by Mohamed Abdelmoneim.

Senegal have become African champions after their third final

But Mane lost the opportunity to put Senegal ahead early as his penalty kick was saved by the revelation of the tournament, Egypt’s goalkeeper Mohamed Abou Gabal, who produced a man-of-the-match performance. 

Senegal kept creating chances that went begging for afoot to tap the ball into the net. Winger Ismaila Sarr sent two crosses across the face of the Egyptian goal but both times Mane could not apply the coup de grace as Egyptian coach Carlos Quieroz watched from the stands after his semifinal suspension. 

It was almost half an hour into the game before Egypt got their first sight of goal when Salah weaved his way inside the Senegal box but his shot was safely scooped up by Edouard Mendy. Salah once again forced a decent save out of Mendy two minutes before halftime.

Senegal returned with more attacking forays in the second half. But every opportunity they had was met by the safe hands of Gabal.

Egypt’s second-half changes brought some pace to their attack as they won a free-kick that Abdelmoneim headed just wide. Substitute Marwan Hamdy also saw another header go just wide. 

Mohamed Salah and Egypt left disappointed

The goals failed to come after extra time as both teams were left to face the reality of penalties.

Egypt had won two penalty shootouts on their way to the final, successfully converting every single kick, and looked confident – although the decision to hand star striker Mo Salah the fifth penalty which ultimately never came will be one they surely come to regret.

But Senegal was composed and scored all except one, with Mane stepping up to take the final kick which sent his team an entire country into rapturous celebrations. 

On the sidelines, Coach Aliou Cisse pumped his fists and celebrated the win. It was his missed penalty that denied Senegal their first opportunity against Cameroon in the final 20 years ago in Bamako.

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