AFCON 2019 final: Bounedjah fires Algeria to glory


The night of destiny arrived for Senegal and Algeria, who went head to head at the Cairo International Stadium, with both looking to lift the trophy and bring joy to their nation and passionate supporters.

The two best teams over the course of the tournament in Egypt had made it through to what was anticipated to be a fantastic final.

Image @CAF_Online

Senegal made two changes to the team that beat Tunisia in the semi – final as Salif Sané deputised for the suspended Kalidou Koulibaly in central defence, while youngster Krepin Diatta was surprisingly left out in favour of Ismaila Sarr.

Algeria, as expected, remain unchanged from their last gasp win against Nigeria. Djamel Belmadi’s ‘Les Verts’ have kept a very settled side throughout which has contributed to their superb showing in Egypt.

As the game started in frantic fashion, Algeria made a dream start as striker Baghdad Bounedjah pounced on some loose Senegalese defending to unleash a strike from 25 yards, which looped up freakishly off centre back Sané and and over goalkeeper Alfred Gomis to give the Algerians a second minute lead.

Photo – @CAF_Online. Bounedjah wheels away in celebration of his early strike.

Although Senegal were rocked by the early goal, the game settled into a nervy, scrappy and very tetchy midfield battle, briefly punctuated by Henri Saivet’s 26th minute free kick being comfortably stopped by Rais M’Bohli in the Algeria goal.

M’Bohli was a mere spectator a few minutes later as M’Baye Niang struck a ferocious half -volley from distance which flew inches over the Algerian crossbar.

In truth though, the first half was a disappointing spectacle as emotions got the better of both teams, with Algeria in particular venting their frustration at the lenient and indecisive performance of Cameroonian referee Néant Alioum.

Even as the teams left the field at half – time, there was altercations between the players, with the Senegalese clearly upset at the somewhat cynical approach of the Algerians which had seen Sadio Mané come in for some rough treatment throughout the first period.

The game continued in similar fashion after the restart, with Senegal again dominating possession but creating very little in terms of goalscoring opportunities.

Things did start to liven up on the hour mark as another Henri Saivet free – kick tested M’Bohli before the ‘Teranga Lions’ were awarded a penalty, somewhat harshly given for handball against Adlene Guedioura.

However, VAR came into play as referee Alioum was asked to view the camera footage for himself, and decided to alter his decision and restart play with a drop – ball.

Photo – @caf_online_FR. Senegal fans at the final in Cairo.

Senegal were just starting to up the tempo a little, and M’Baye Niang saw his effort from a tight angle miss the target after he rounded the keeper. Full back Youssouf Sabaly then saw his effort from distance acrobatically tipped over by M’Bohli.

Algeria were nowhere near their fluent best throughout and were unable to get key creator Riyad Mahrez on the ball. However they continued to keep Senegal at bay fairly comfortably, though Ismaila Sarr did blaze a volley over when we’ll positioned in the box.

There would be no way through though as Algeria held on for their first African Cup of Nations title since 1990, while the wait goes on for Aliou Cissé’s despondent Senegal side.

Photo – @CAF_Online. Algeria captain Riyad Mahrez with the trophy.

Although the final wasn’t the classic we all hoped for, the tournament has entertained us over the last few weeks. From the unexpected surprises caused by Madagascar and Benin to the stuttering performances of host nation Egypt and Cameroon (for whom Clarence Seedorf lost his job as manager), AFCON 2019 has provided us with vibrancy, verve, passion and endeavour.


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