BY PAUL MUKANA
Sadio Mane inspired Senegal to clinch their first ever AFCON title after seeing off Egypt in a hotly contested final.
It was a real battle of Titans inside the noisy Olembe stadium in Younde Cameroon.
The Liverpool tactician got a chance to put Senegal ahead in the 7th minute but his penalty was briilintly saved by Egypt goalkeeper Gabaski.
Egypt’s centre back Mohammed Abdelmonem had fouled Senegalese left back Saliou Cisse before the penalty was awarded.
However, the miss left the tie wide open with both teams working hard to create chances but in vain.
Both goalkeepers were superb and it contributed to the match ending goalless in normal time.
Egypt’s Mohammed Salah was well manned by the Senegalese defence and portrayed less danger in his goal hunting mission.
The extra time also ended goalless and it meant Egypt we’re heading to post match penalties for the fourth time in the tournament.
Egypt’s centre back Mohammed Abdelmonem was the first to miss the spot kick as his shot bounced off goal despite sending Edouardo Mendy the wrong way.
However, Senegal’s Bayern Munich star Bouna Sarr immediately saw his penalty saved by the fabulous Gabaski to complicate things for Senegal.
However, Mendy saved Mohammad Lasheen’s penalty before Sadio Mane won it with an emphatic finish into the bottom left hand corner.
It was all jubiliation for the Teranga Lions.
Infact Salah had not yet taken his penalty when Mane sealed the proceedings.
It was the third time Senegal were playing in the final having lost the 2002 and 2019 finals.
On the other hand Egypt were attempting to lift their eighth title after losing to Cameroon in 2017.
It was Mohammed Salah’s second loss in the final after the 2017 defeat.
Senegal has been African’s top football county for the last three years and Mane scored three goals and assisted two in this year’s showdown.
Senegalese captain Kalidou Koulibaly walked to the VIP stands alongside CAF president Patrice Motsepe and FIFA’S Gianni Infantino to greet Cameroon president Paul Biya as he handed over the trophy.
Cameroon football legend Roger Milla also took part in the handing over ceremony.
Senegal and Egypt have now met five times and they will be meeting again next month in a mouth cracking two legged world cup playoff.
Senegal coach Aliou Cisse told journalists after the final that the Victory is a result of hard work.
“It just shows that if you work hard, if you persevere, you will get what you want. I am very emotional because the people of Senegal have been waiting for this trophy for over 60 years,” he said.
Cisse is a former Senegal captain and was part of the squad that beat France in the 2002 world cup.