Tunisia defender Dylan Bronn netted an own goal in the extra time, and it ended up making the huge difference in a nervy AFCON 2019 semifinal match at the 30 June Stadium Cairo on Sunday as the Teranga Lions of Senegal advanced into the final, Completesports.com reports.
In a clash of high intensity laced with drama of two penalty kick misses, one on each side, during regulation time, the West African side waited until the closing stages of the first half of extra time for defender Bronn to turn the ball inside his own net to hand the Teranga Lions a long awaited lead.
It did not however come on a plater as Senegal were made to sweat all through and could have paid dearly for their profligacy, with hugely experienced Liverpool forward, Sadio Mane as culprit.
The Teranga Lions were dominant in the first period, encamping in the Carthage Eagles’ territorial like locust invasion but we’re terribly poor in the final third.
They bossed the North African opponents with ease so much so that spectators started counting on their fingers when the much anticipated breakthrough would come.
They hit the woodwork early on when Sabaly bent a lovely strike from the left. Few minutes later, Niang and Sadio Mane ran against each other in front of goal, leaving the Tunisian goalkeeper, Mouez Hassan, with the easiest task of gathering the ball.
Senegal were presented with another glorious opportunity to go in front on 38th minutes but Sabaly dragged his effort from the edge of the post waywardly wide off post to the consternation of the West Africans’ supporters.
Perhaps, the worst miss of the half was on 39 minutes when Liverpool talismanic forward, Mane was put through on goal. He dribbled the Tunisian goalkeeper but faced with an open post and a fast recovering defender, Mane blasted wide.
That miss turned out the major talking point of the first period as both sides went into the halftime break on level terms.
The restart took almost the shape of the first half but it was the Carthage Eagles that carved out the first decent chance of the half when Taha Khenissi was put through on goal. He outpaced two Senegal defenders but his dink over the on rushing Senegal goalkeeper, Mendy, went over the crossbar. That was in the 47th minute.
A minute later, Sassi forced a wonderful save from the Senegal goalkeeper with a teasing strike from the edge of the penalty box after a decent buildup.
Mane had another opportunity on 56 minutes to take Senegal in front when Niang slipped a pass through a crowded Tunisia defense after a free kick. Mane dribbled the Tunisian goalkeeper but the shot stopper quickly recovered to clutch the ball on a second attempt.
Taha Khenissi tried an aimless but audacious shot from distance on 57 minutes when he should done better.
Sassi set up Taha Khenissi on 65th minute with a clever back heel but the Tunisian forward amazingly could not decide on what to do before Senegal keeper smartly closed down on him with a decent save.
Perhaps, Tunisia’s moment of glory arrived on 74 minutes when they were gifted a penalty after a Senegalese defender was adjudged to have blocked a shot on goal with his hand.
Sassi stepped forward for the kick but Senegal goalkeeper Mendy timed well, going down quickly enough to gather the kick. It was a big moment of respite for the West African team.
Five minutes later, exactly on 79 minutes, the drama of penalties continued when a Senegalese player was felled inside the Tunisian box. The referee pointed to the spot only for Saivet to see goalkeeper Mouez Hassen divert his effort into corner kick.
With neither side breaking the deadlock until regulation time, the game dragged into extra time.
Senegal finally got their breakthrough on 101 minute when Tunisian defender, Bronn, diverted the ball into his own net beyond the reach of goalkeeper Mouez Hassen.
With one leg now supremely planted in the final should the result stay at 1-0 in their favour, Senegal tightened the screw and defended in large numbers, as the Tunisians poured out into the Lions’ territory in search of a possible equaliser in the final quarter of an hour.
By Sab Osuji
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