Sadio Mane buried his penalty into Egypt’s net in the penalty shootout, to win Senegal the AFCON final. The final was eventful for the duo for contrasting reasons and there was a really wholesome moment at the end, where Sadio rushed to console his teammate.
The Liverpool duo squared off in the AFCON final in Cameroon to win a major honour for their respective nations. Mohamed Salah even called the final ‘a matter of life and death’. Understandably, the stakes were high and the play in the match reflected that.
High-stakes but ultimately dour AFCON final
AFCON like other international tournaments had too much ‘pragmatic football’. Effective but ultimately not exciting. The final was a microcosm of the tournament really, dour passages of play, with flashes of brilliance that make you look up from your phone. Teams only threatened from set-pieces or resorted to shooting from outside the box.
The game was scrappy and neither team wanted to give away any advantage. So, there were fouls aplenty.
Neutrals watching the game would certainly have been anticipating that brilliant players would rise to the challenge and produce a moment of magic. There were a few, Salah’s mazy run through Senegal’s defence and then before half-time, he fired a well-struck effort that Edouard Mendy saved. Sadio meanwhile, looked decent while linking-up play, but Senegal just couldn’t convert the bevy of chances that they created.
The referee, Victor Gomes didn’t help the proceedings either. He seemed reluctant to book clear offences and even more so to show second yellow cards. The game really seemed to play into Egypt’s hands.
However, Egypt’s Mohamed Abdelmonem brought down Senegal’s Saliou Ciss in the penalty box. Sadio failed to convert the subsequent penalty after Salah was seen giving Gabaski (Egypt’s goalkeeper) some advice. The game then set into a pattern of Senegal’s wasteful attacks followed by Egypt’s fruitless counters and fouls in-between. There were 52 fouls in the match and that just killed any momentum. Though there was a flurry of good chances right at the end of extra time, but it was obvious the game was going into penalties.
This seemed to be Egypt’s strategy but it backfired, they missed two of their four penalties taken. The shootout started well for both teams, as they converted their penalties but Mohamed Abdelmonem missed his penalty. It looked Gabaski was going to do something heroic again as he saved one for Egypt but it just wasn’t meant to be. Egypt’s Mohanad Lasheen failed to go past Mendy. Salah didn’t even get to take one, as Mane converted the decisive penalty to win them their first African Cup of Nations.
Salah was inconsolable at the end and Mane rushed to comfort his teammate. He later revealed to beIN Sports
I told him that he remains a very great player and it’s a pleasure to play for the same club. I have so much respect for him and he gave everything for his country.
Unfortunately, he didn’t win, but that doesn’t mean it’s over for him. I also told him that he still has many things to win, including the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations. They have a young team so maybe they will win it one day.
It was a nice gesture from Liverpool No. 10. However, Salah won’t wallow in grief for long and has reportedly told Liverpool that he will return to training on Tuesday. This doesn’t mean he is guaranteed to start for the Leicester game. Jurgen Klopp would want to manage his workload and not rush him. Sadio Mane meanwhile, is due to return close to the Leicester game.
The Senegalese international was in good spirits and joked about leaving Liverpool for Marseille if a transfer request came in. Regardless, it was an eventful tournament for all Liverpool players involved, in one way or another.