CAIRO: Algeria will face Senegal in an unexpected final of the African Nations Cup on Friday after their dramatic victories over Nigeria and Tunisia respectively.
Senegal will be seeking their first Cup of Nations title, 17 years after their only previous appearance in the final.
Algeria owed their 2-1 win over Nigeria to a superb free kick from Manchester City forward Riyad Mahrez’s in stoppage time which sent them into their own first final since 1990— the only time they won the tournament.
The Algerians dominated the first half and should have had more than a 1-0 lead to show for it, courtesy of a William Troost Ekong own goal.
Nigeria equalised out of the blue midway through the second half with a penalty for handball converted by Odion Ighalo, his fourth goal of the tournament, after a lengthy VAR review. There were ugly scenes in the crowd as bottles were thrown after the equaliser.
Coach Gernot Rohr said: “It was a big fight until the last minute, it was a wonderful match, I think my players wanted it to go to extra time thinking Algeria were more tired.
“We scored an own goal, unlucky, but we have come back every time in this tournament and this time we came back on a penalty. But a wonderful free kick from a football genius made the difference.”
Own goal decider
A bizarre own goal in extra time handed Senegal their earlier 1-0 victory over Tunisia. A mistake by goalkeeper Moez Hassen in the 100th minute saw the ball bounce off the head of defender Dylan Bronn and into the net for the only goal of a game in which both teams had second-half penalties saved.
Hassen came flying off his goal-line to try to cut off a freekick from the right flank but completely missed the ball which then hit the Bronn on the head.
Both teams had a chance to settle the result in the second half at the 30 June Stadium but squandered spot kicks.
Tunisia will feel aggrieved after referee Bamlak Tessema changed a decision to award them another penalty after consulting the Video Assistant Referee with seven minutes left of extra time.
Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate headed clear a freekick on to the arm of team mate Idrissa Gana Gueye in the Senegal box but, after consulting VAR, the referee decided Gana Gueye’s arm was not moving and changed his mind.
In the 73rd minute a stinging effort from Ferjani Sassi was blocked by Senegal centre back Kalidou Koulibaly, turning his back as he slid into the path of the shot which struck him on his elbow.
The referee awarded a controversial penalty and also booked the Napoli centre back, now suspended for the final.
But Sassi hesitated as he stepped up to take the kick and hit a tame effort right into Gomis’s hands, throwing away a golden chance with 15 minutes left to play.
Three minutes later Ismaila Sarr was tripped in the Tunisia penalty area by Yassine Meriah.
Sadio Mane had missed two earlier spot kicks in the tournament so Henri Saivet took over penalty duties only to be foiled by Hassen.