It was redemption for Sadio Mane as his penalty kick lifted Senegal to their first Africa Cup of Nations title on Sunday against Egypt. Senegal won the penalty shootout, 4-2, after the sides failed to score for 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of extra time. It was Mane's early penalty miss in the first half that put Senegal in a position where they needed a penalty shootout, but it was Mane's confident take to finish things that secured their AFCON championship. Mane was also named AFCON player of the tournament after scoring three goals and assisting two more.
In a preview of an upcoming clash between these two sides as only one will qualify for the World Cup, Senegal dominated from kickoff but were unable to make it count due to excellent play in net by Egyptian goalkeeper Mohamed Abougabal. Finishing with eight saves, he had another strong showing.
Only six minutes in, Senegal thought they had an opener via Mane as Mohamed Abdelmonem fouled Saliou Ciss in the box but Mane missed his penalty. Senegal continued to boss the match, creating chances from everywhere but they couldn't find the finishing touch. It wasn't a huge worry as Idrissa Gueye was breaking up Egypt attacks all over the park. A triple change from Egypt in the 58th minute would change the flow of things but didn't bring enough of a cutting edge to beat Senegal keeper Edouard Mendy.
Senegal's keys in attack were Saliou Ciss, Ismaila Sarr, and Ahmadou Bamba Dieng. All three were able to create a number of chances in the match and on a day when they weren't up against Abougabal, multiple goals may have gone by Egypt. Damage control was just good enough for Carlos Quieroz's men but trying to win a third penalty shootout pushed Egypt's luck just too far.
Abdelmonem's day to forget continued as he missed his penalty, hitting the post and putting Egypt behind. Abougabal momentarily came to the rescue, saving Bouna Sarr's take before Mendy pulled out an excellent save on Mohanad Lasheen's. That set the stage for Mane to seal the title.
It was a memorable day for Senegal manager Aliou Cisse, who coached Senegal to the title after he captained the side at AFCON and in the World Cup two decades ago before transitioning to coaching.
Here are three takeaways from Sunday's match:
1. Egypt need to become less reliant on Salah
While Salah makes any team better, before the introduction of Zizo and Trezeguet, Egypt's two chances came through amazing solo runs from Salah. He only had 14 accurate passes all game and was dispossessed seven times. This is because Senegal could collapse four defenders on Salah all match with no fear of anyone else from Egypt hurting them. Trezeguet's pace offered a little more of a threat but if Egypt want to have a constant presence at the World Cup, defense alone won't keep them going forever.
2. Senegal win proves they're for real
Much was made about Senegal's run to the AFCON final that saw them play Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, and Burkina Faso before the final. But with knocking out the Kings of AFCON in Egypt, Senegal are here to stay. The defense is stout, anchored by Mendy and Kalido Koulibaly. Cheikhou Kouyate and Gueye make up a strong base to the midfield -- and if he makes good on his potential, Pape Sarr has spades of talent as well. And with Sadio Mane leading a talented group of attackers, Senegal are a team to watch out for if they do make the World Cup.
3. In a keeper showdown, it's a shame both teams can't win
While 120 scoreless minutes are technically a win for both keepers, Mendy and Abougabal were on another planet Sunday. Mendy has become the first keeper to keep a clean sheet at a Champions League final and an AFCON final, while the 33-year-old Abougabal wasn't even supposed to be in net. Starter Mohamed El-Shennawi suffered a muscle strain during Egypt's shootout win over the Ivory Coast leading to a three-match run for Abougabal during which he allowed one goal while making 15 saves. Add in coming up big in two shootouts as well and it's quite the tournament. Mendy, however, was the winner of AFCON's best goalkeeper award.