The 2019 African Cup of Nations came to an end last night in Egypt as Algeria won for the second time with a freak early goal just inside 23 minutes to secure a 1-0 win against Senegal in a cagey final in Cairo.
The final pitted two of the Premier Leagues best players in Liverpool’s Sadio made against Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez. However it was Baghdad Bounedjah’s speculative shot which took a huge deflection off Salif Sane and looped over goalkeeper Alfred Gomes that made the difference.
Senegal, who have never won the competition were making only their second appearance in the final since 2002 and dominated for large periods but struggled to make the most of their possession.
Although they were awarded a penalty for handball in the second half when Ismaila Sarr’s cross was blasted straight at Adlene Guedioura’s arm, it was overturned after a VAR review as Algeria closed out the rest of the game to win their first the title since 1990.
With the final whistle sounding, Senegal’s players collapsed on the pitch in tears with Liverpool striker Mane particularly looking disconsolate as the Algerians clebrated. The Champions league winner had said before the game that he would swap his Champions League winners medal for Africa Cup of Nations success.
“Without the players I am nothing,” said Algeria boss Djamel Belmadi. “They are the main ones. I suppose the staff played its part in guiding the players but they applied the instructions incredibly well.”
Many pundits and observers blamed Senegalese M’Baye Niang for being wasteful in front of goal and generally performing below par with the team’s best two chances wasted as he flashed a fierce drive over the bar just before the break, and rounded keeper Rais M’bolhi early in the second half only to shoot wide from a tight angle.
Although the game was billed by many as a battle between Liverpool’s Mane and Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez both satrs were on the periphery of this encounter with the latter laid back as his team decided to defend their lead.
Mane on the other hand only had a few flashes of his brilliance here and there with no serious impact for the Lions of Teranga.