Having missed the chance to put Senegal ahead from the spot in the early stages of a keenly contested AFCON 2021 final, Sadio Mane redeemed himself during the shootout when in an exasperating manner, blasted the decisive penalty passed Egypt’s Abou Gabal to deliver Senegal’s first AFCON title.
As expected, the tie was a cagey and snuggly one as the Egyptian once again stretched the Lions of Teranga to another penalty shootout in Yaounde.
After Mané had his penalty saved by Gabaski, The Senegalese side looked more dangerous than their Egyptian counterparts for the rest of the first forty-five, yet the couldn’t penetrate the Pharaohs’ defense.
The second period also provided little in the way of entertaining goalmouth action as the affair became more and more scrappy. However, Ahmed Hamdy and Abdelmonem both got on the end of dangerous crosses, but their headers lacked the necessary direction to truly threaten Mendy.
Given the balance of play and the fact that five AFCON finals since 2000 have gone to extra-time, the proposition of 30 more minutes had an air of inevitability.
The extra thirty minutes did produce some glimmers of goal but for the brilliance of both Gabal and Mendy, the match proceeded to shootouts, with Egypt becoming the first nation to play consecutive four matches to extra-time in the knockout stages in the history of the AFCON.
As Egypt boss Carlos Quieroz watched on from the stands after being suspended from the touchline during his side’s victory last time out, his counterpart Cissé was ultimately the one celebrating after losing as a player in 2002 and as a manager three years ago. In a twist of fate, it was Mané who stepped up to net the winning spot-kick in a show of supreme mental strength.
Senegal were worthy winners, but questions must be asked of the organising committee. The African continent is blessed with outstanding talent, but too often they are let down by incompetence from the authorities tasked with putting on a show as the world watches.