Mane defeats teammate Mohammed Salah to grab 1st Afcon title for Senegal

Written by: 
Olara Moses Jimmy

The 33rd edition of the African Cup of Nations drew to a scintillating close with the Lions of Teranga devouring the Egyptian Pharaohs at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde, Cameroon. The shootout scoreline had Senegal in a 3-2 lead. 

Mane, who had missed a penalty in the early stages of the game, when his club teammate Mohammed Salah told his goalkeeper Gabaski which way to dive, hit in the finisher to seal the 4-2 victory for country Senegal.

The battle line at the AFCON finale was clearly drawn before the ball was kicked with Senegal seeking a first ever title, after missing out in the 2002 and 2019 editions.

Both teams had slow starts in the group stages despite a boast by the talent of Liverpool's attacking duo for either teams - Sadio Mane of Senegal and Mohammed Salah of Egypt. Senegal sneaked into the round of 16 with a last gasp Mane penalty to beat Zimbabwe 1-0 in their opener before dull 0-0 stalemates against Guinea and Malawi. They sprang to life in the round of 16 conquering 9-man Cape Verde 2-0 before identical 3-1 victories against Equatorial Guinea and Burkina Faso in the quarters and semis respectively, seeing them book their slot in the final. Egypt, on the other hand, lost their opener 1-0 to Nigeria, beat both Guinea Bissau and Sudan 1-0 to qualify for the knockout stages. A 2-2 draw with Ivory Coast in the last 16 ended in them winning 5-4 on penalties. They beat Morocco 2-1 in regular time in the quarters and had to grit their teeth to knock out host nation, Cameroon with a 3-1 penalty success in the semis.

As is typical of African football, the match was characterized with high energy and a flurry of fouls that over the 120 minutes of football, totalled 52. Senegal attacked Egypt relentlessly, but the latter was happy to sit back and defend and wait for penalties.

 The Lions of Teranga struggled to find a cutting edge and were mostly let down by their finishing and an inspired performance by Egyptian shot stopper, Gabaski, that saw him scoop the game's Man of the match accolade.

When Egypt showed flashes of brilliance, Senegal's Edouard Mendy caught everything flung at him enroute to becoming the tournament's best goalkeeper and first goalie to keep a clean sheet in the UEFA Champions League final and the AFCON final. With 120 minutes of football played and nothing to separate the two teams, South African referee, Victor Gomes signalled for penalties.

Egypt had won each of their last penalty shootouts and Gabaski had saved five penalties already in this tournament alone. The odds were highly staked against Senegal but, when Mendy saved from Mohanad Lasheen, Mane had the opportunity to win it for Senegal and he made no mistake.

This brought to an end the tournament that run from 9th January to 6th February 2022, having been rescheduled from June and July 2021. Sadio Mane finished as the player of the tournament and Cameroon's Vincent Aboubakar grabbed the top scorer's gong with an impressive 8 goals in 7 appearances, a new record for the tournament.