Algeria and Senegal Push Through to Africa Cup Final
Riyad Mahrez scored from a free kick in the fifth minute of injury time as Algeria beat Nigeria, 2-1, on Sunday and progressed to the Africa Cup of Nations final against Senegal.
Mahrez thundered his left-footed shot into the top corner as effectively the final kick of the game, settling the semifinal at Cairo International Stadium in stunning style.
Algeria took the lead on an own goal by William Troost-Ekong, but the score was evened when Nigeria was given a penalty for handball after a long video assistant referee referral by the referee, who had not initially awarded the spot kick. Nigeria took its opportunity — contentious as it was — as Odion Ighalo tied it at 1-1 from the spot.
But Mahrez, Algeria’s captain, scored at the very end, sending his team to its first final since it won its only African title nearly 30 years ago in 1990.
Earlier, Sadio Mané and Senegal also advanced to the final, beating Tunisia, 1-0, in an extra-time thriller.
Senegal won with an own goal in the 100th minute when Tunisia’s goalkeeper, Mouez Hassen, pushed a free kick onto the head of defender Dylan Bronn and the ball bounced back into the Tunisian goal.
In a game of high drama, both teams missed penalties within a few minutes of each other in regulation time at the 30 June Stadium in Cairo.
Tunisia was then given another penalty late in extra time, but the referee, Bamlak Tessema Weyesa, checked the V.A.R. screen on the sidelines and dramatically reversed his decision, to the dismay of the Tunisians.
Senegal, seeking its first Africa Cup title, will play Algeria on Friday.
Tunisia should have taken the lead after winning the first penalty in the 73rd minute, when Ferjani Sassi’s shot hit the upper arm of Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly as he threw himself to block it.
Sassi took the penalty himself, but it was weak, and Senegal goalkeeper Alfred Gomis saved it easily.
Senegal had its chance almost immediately afterward, as Ismaila Sarr was hacked down by Bronn in the area.
Henri Saivet took the spot kick instead of Mané, who had missed two penalties earlier in the tournament.
Saivet’s penalty was low and hard to the bottom right corner, but Hassen dived at full stretch and deflected it away with his left hand.
Hassen was responsible for giving away the game-deciding goal, though, and deciding Tunisia’s fate.
In extra time, he went to punch away a free kick that swung over from the right wing but only forced it onto Bronn’s head, and it rebounded into the net.
The most contentious moment of a scintillating game occurred near the end after Senegal’s Idrissa Gueye had been penalized for a hand ball in the area. The ball was headed down by a teammate and struck Gueye’s hand as he tried to pull it away at the side of his body.
The referee awarded the penalty and then ran to the sideline to check the V.A.R., which is being used at the Africa Cup for the first time.
After a tense delay, he ran back onto the field waving his arms to signal no penalty.
Senegal has reached just one Africa Cup final, in 2002, when the team also reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup. The current Senegal coach, Aliou Cissé, who was a member of the 2002 team, dropped to his knees with his arms held aloft in celebration at the final whistle on Sunday.
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