On Friday, Algeria recorded a narrow 1-0 win over Senegal to win the African Cup of Nations. The victory saw Algeria claim the trophy for only the second time.
One goal enough to claim the trophy
They had the perfect start to the game, taking the lead after just two minutes. Striker Baghdad Bounedjah picked up the ball from Ismael Bennacer, advanced towards goal and hit smashed an effort towards goal. The effort hit Salif Sane and looped over Senegalese goalkeeper Alfred Gomis.
The rest of the first period lacked much goalmouth action. The best effort of the first half came on 38 minutes, as Senegal’s forward M’Baye Niang curled a shot just wide of the post. Senegal then posed the next threat, as just before the hour-mark, Sadio Mane found space inside the area and smashed an effort towards goal. However, Algerian defender Djamel Benlamri produced a superb block in the six-yard box.
Senegal looked to have a golden opportunity to equalise on the hour mark. Referee Sidi Alioum adjudged that Ismaila Sarr’s cross hit the arm of Adlene Guedioura. However, VAR reviewed the decision and decided to reverse the decision, much to the frustration of Senegal.
They continued to press for an equaliser and chances kept falling their way too. Algeria goalkeeper Rais M’Bohli did well to smother at the feet on Niang after the striker was put through on goal. Niang was through again soon afterwards, but after rounding the Algerian stopper, the striker rushed his finish and missed the target. Senegal kept pressing and Sabaly saw a well-hit shot from long-range go wide of goal.
Sarr spurned a fantastic chance to equalise on 83 minutes. The winger seized on a poor defensive header from a corner kick, only to put the ball over the bar.
However, Sadio Mane and co. failed to find a leveller. Therefore, Algeria claimed their first victory at the African Cup of Nations since 1990. The triumph caused wild celebrations amongst Algerians worldwide.
Senegal will be highly disappointed not to have claimed their first-ever African Cup of Nations, especially considering the quality in their squad. The likes of Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Everton’s Idrissa Gueye will likely be given an extended break, although the latter is being heavily linked with a move to PSG before the English transfer window shuts.
Retaining the trophy will be tough for Algeria
As previously mentioned, the triumph was only Algeria’s second at the competition. Teams have struggled to retain the trophy in recent years. Egypt won the trophy three times in a row from 2006 to 2010. However, there have been four different winners since Egypt’s dominance. In fact, Cameroon are the only other team to retain the trophy.
The likes of Senegal, Cameroon, Egypt, Ivory Coast and maybe even Nigeria will all be expected to mount serious challenges to win the trophy in two years’ time in Cameroon. Algeria will be hoping to join that elite band of teams to win the African Cup of Nations in back-to-back tournaments.
Did Algeria deserve to finish the African Cup of Nations as champions?