May 29, 2024

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Afcon 2021: Late Mane penalty gives Senegal narrow win over Zimbabwe

Senegal won 1-0 in their Africa Cup of Nations Group B opener against Zimbabwe, thanks to a penalty from Sadio Mane seven minutes into extra time.

Zimbabwe’s setback in Bafoussam was devastating, as they made one of the tournament favourites look out of place.

Kelvin Madzongwe was ruled to have handled in the fourth minute of stoppage time after turning his back on a Pape Gueye shot.

Senegal got off to a flying start thanks to Sadio Mane’s strike for Liverpool.

Midfielder Gana Gueye had the finest chance just before halftime, but he was unable to control a simple feed from Mane with the goal in sight.

Mane had earlier in the half been denied after sliding into space in the box and firing straight at Petros Mhari, the superb Zimbabwe goalkeeper.

Senegal entered this tournament seeking to win their first Nations Cup trophy after losing to Algeria in the final in 2019. However, due to a combination of COVID cases and injuries, they were far from their best, with only 17 players named out of a squad of 28.

Bayern Munich defender Bouna Sarr had the opening chance, firing a low shot inches wide before Keita Balde also missed the target.

At the other end, Zimbabwe skipper Knowledge Musona sent a 20-yard strike just wide of the post as his side came close to reaching the knockout stages for the first time.

Pape Cisse had a golden chance to break the deadlock shortly after half-time, but his free header from a corner was fiercely deflected past the post, leaving Mhari stranded.

Senegal, Africa’s top-ranked team for the past three years, ultimately fell short against a well-organized Zimbabwe team that showed no signs of being hampered by the uncertainty surrounding their participation in the finals.

The danger of a ban from football’s world governing organisation loomed in the run-up to the event when a government-mandated group took control of the local FA, which is against Fifa standards.

At the 13th attempt, they were seconds away from keeping their first clean sheet in the Nations Cup, only for it to be wrecked when referee Mario Escobar pointed to the spot, with the video assistant referee confirming his on-field judgement.