Mane’s Fitness & Fantasy Wins the Nations Cup for Senegal
Sunday’s 4-2 goals triumph via penalty kicks earned Senegal her first Nations Cup win. Senegal and Egypt both fielded strong teams for yesterday’s final of the 2022 African Cup of Nations at Olembe Stadium in Cameroun. But it was Senegal that showed determination from the start by whipping the ball deep into opponent’s half. This early attack and agitation led them into committing a foul play in the first minute. But by the third, they had won a penalty when Egypt’s right half back Mohammed Abdelmonem, hacked down Ciss in the box.
Sadio Mane would have Egypt’s goalkeeper, Mohamed Abou Gabal, save his resultant penalty kick in the sixth minute. Senegal kept foot on the gas thereafter, winning a corner kick in the process. The first ten minutes were for Senegal, with Egypt clearly on the defensive and hoping for counter attacks. Egypt made an attempt into Senegal’s half in the 12th minute, but Edouard Mendy was on standby in goal to pick up the ball.
The Lions of Teranga went close to scoring in the 18th minute when Mane failed to jab in a cross whipped from the right hand flank by Sarr Ismalia. A repeat play by Sarr was missed again by Mane in the 22nd minute. Egypt remained on the defensive in the first half only to have Salah fire a weak shot in the 27th minute from the right flank. An agile Mendy coolly averted danger. He made another superb save off the foot of Mo Salah in the 42nd minute, gifting the Pharaohs of Egypt a corner kick in the process. The first half ended goalless but not before Senegal’s Kouyate shot wide of goal in the dying minutes of the half.
Senegal resumed in the second half with verve. They picked up from where the first half ended, winning a throw-in the first minute. Mane won a free kick around the edge of the penalty box in the 47th minute. The subsequent kick was placed above the bar by Senegal’s Gueye. Ten minutes into the half, Senegal launched an attack from the right flank which saw Egypt’s goalkeeper charging for the ball at the feet of Sadio Mane inside the penalty box.
Egypt came close to scoring in the 69th minute but a header from Abdelmonem went over the crossbar. The Egyptian bench was cautioned in the 72nd minute for touchline restiveness. The team remained on the defensive for most of the game only posing a threat with sixteen minutes left in the half. Senegal remained on the offensive and Mane earned a free kick close to the penalty box with eleven minutes left to play. The resultant kick went way off the mark.
With the game still tied at goalless after extra time, both teams went into penalty kicks. The lot fell on Sadio Mane to take the deciding kick. Having learnt his lessons after the earlier miskick, he stepped up and buried it in the goalkeeper’s upper right side to send his team and supporters into wild jubilations. He had won his country Africa’s greatest soccer honor for the first time. A disappointed Mo Salah and his team mates were inconsolable.