Algeria on Friday won the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in nearly three decades, beating Senegal 1-0 in the final with a deflected goal in the opening seconds by striker Baghdad Bounedjah.
Bounedjah’s shot on Algeria’s first attack deflected off Senegal defender Salif Sane and looped over goalkeeper Alfred Gomis at the Cairo International Stadium.
The goal was timed at 79 seconds — the fastest in an Africa Cup final for at least 39 years — and delivered Algeria just a second African title.
Algeria players sprinted the length of the field and jumped over advertising boards to celebrate with their fans at the final whistle. Some players climbed the fences, fists pumping as the raucous Algeria fans surged toward them.
Algeria last made the final 29 years ago in 1990, when they won their sole title before Friday.
“My people have waited a long time,” said Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi, a former Algeria player. “I’m very happy even if it is difficult to express. I’m tired, it’s true, and it is difficult to show my emotions, but when I rest my happiness will appear.”
Senegal and Sadio Mane trudged off the field disappointed again. Mane, socks down around his ankles, managed to wave to a group of supporters who cheered for him as he left.
Senegal have never won the Africa Cup and Senegal coach Aliou Cisse had another bitter pill to swallow after missing the penalty that cost Senegal the Africa Cup in a shootout in their only previous appearance in the final in 2002.
“This is a different generation and Algeria won,” Cisse said. “They seized an opportunity and they scored.”
Senegal’s desperate disappointment was exacerbated when they were awarded a penalty in the second half and then had it taken away following a video assistant referee (VAR) review.
Cameroonian referee Alioum Alioum penalized Algeria’s Adlane Guedioura for a handball, but changed his decision after consulting VAR.
Still, Algeria were probably fitting champions in Egypt, having won every game, including a 1-0 win over Senegal in the group stage.
Algeria were captained by Riyad Mahrez, who added an Africa Cup title to his English Premier League title with Manchester City.
Mahrez had limited first-team action with City, but was an integral part of Algeria’s victory at the Africa Cup. His injury-time free-kick put Algeria into the final and he ended with three goals, the same as Mane.
Algeria had a dream start and Senegal a nightmare, when Bounedjah took advantage of open space on the left in the opening moments, swept inside and hit a shot that deflected off Sane, who was returning from injury for the final.
The ball looped, almost in slow motion, over Gomis, who did not move, apparently certain that it would go over the crossbar.
Bounedjah’s tournament ended in joy after he attracted attention for his emotional reaction to missing a penalty in the quarter-finals.
Fearing he had cost his team, Bounedjah spent much of that match crying in the locker room after he was substituted. Algeria eventually won the quarter-final in a shootout to keep their dream alive.
Algeria protected their lead for much of the final, allowing Senegal to dominate possession and push forward, but Senegal could not find the final touch, with their worst miss in the second half when Sarr blasted a volley over the crossbar from in front of Algeria’s goal.
Algeria’s celebrations at the end were boisterous, with thousands of supporters making the trip across to Egypt for the final. They took up almost half of one side of the stadium.
During the celebrations, the Algeria squad and coach Belmadi kneeled down and prayed as they faced the supporters.
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