There is a line in football circles that sometimes, the best team losses-that is exactly what happened to Senegal when they got nearly everything right on Friday in the final of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Friday night at the Cairo International stadium but a goal.
The Lions of Teranga, as they are famously known, controlled 63 percent of the possession, attempted 12 shots to Algeria’s only one but failed to crack the opponents who did everything in their reach to win the grand prize.
Baghdad Bounedjah’s shot inside 70 seconds took a heavy deflection on Salif Sane as it flew over Gomes in Senegal’s goal and in.
Captain Cheikhou Kouyate nearly pulled matters level later on when he weaved through two defenders before unleashing a powerful stinger than could only kiss the top left angle on its way out.
Mbaye Niang also had a chance to push Senegal but his volley kept skewing wide and out.
The Lions returned with a louder roar searching for the much-needed equalizer. The efforts nearly paid off at the hour turn when Djamel Benlamri appeared to have handled Sarr’s low cross.
The referee immediately pointed to the spot but later on canceled it after reviewing the video replays. The replays showed that, indeed, the defender handled the ball but the referee took it as an intentional handball or rather a ball-to-hand situation.
The Senegalese maintained the pressure but the Algerians kept running the time down with off-ball antics.
As champions, the Algerians fly to Algiers with US$ 4.5 million, Senegal console with US$ 2.5 million as Nigeria takes home US$ 2 million.
Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo snatched the golden boot with five goals as Algeria duo of Rais Mbolhi and Ismail Bennacer won the golden glove and most valuable player of the tournament respectively.
The victory becomes Algeria’s second after their 1990 heroics. On their hand, Senegal’s wait for a maiden championship will wait for more years to come.