Senegal have booked their place in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations semifinals with Idrissa Gueye scoring the Teranga Lions’ solitary winner against an impressive Benin Republic side in a thrilling quarterfinal clash at 30 June Stadium Cairo on Wednesday, Completesports.com reports.
Finalists in 2002 edition of the tournament in Mali, Senegal made no pretence of their intentions, desire and appetite to go past their West African neighbours right from the kkickoff.
The Teranga Lions were dominant in the opening stages, enjoying a 64-46 possession of proceedings, but it was the Benin Squirrels that came close to taking the lead 19 minutes into the game. A free kick from the left hand channel was side-footed by Porter who agonisingly watched his effort stroll marginally wide of post.
The Teranga Lions heeded that danger warning with sustained pressure on their fellow West African opponent, but with talismanic Liverpool big man, Sadio Mane, on whose shoulders the hunt for goal rested, a clearly marked man, Squirrels’ crowded defending approach was clearly smothering the Lions’ roaring.
It was no distinct surprise then that both sides went into the half time break on equal scoreless terms.
The restart for the second period saw the best chance of the half falling on the lively Squirrels’ Pote in the 47th minute but his effort was smothered by the Senegalese goalkeeper.
Two minutes later, Senegal came close to taking the lead when a free kick from the right met a Senegalese striker’s chest but the ball rolled off target with the Squirrels’ keeper transfixed to his spot.
The Lions thought they had gotten the breakthrough on 53 minutes when Sadio Mane had the ball into the net, but was ruled offside.
However, Benin Republic were almost gifted a goal on 66th minute when Senegal goalkeeper failed to deal properly a back pass, gifting the Squirrels a corner kick that eventually did not bear any fruit.
The breakthrough eventually arrived on the stroke of 70 minutes when Everton of England forward, Idrissa Gueye fired Senegal into the lead after pouncing on a brilliant pass by Mane to fire past goalkeeper Alagbe of Benin Republic.
The ovation that greeted the goal had hardly died down when Sadio Mane thought he had doubled his side’s advantage after rounding up the Squirrels goalkeeper. But the offside flag went up against him and Video Assistant Referee, VAR, was to later confirm that Mane was indeed marginally ofside.
The Squirrel problem was compounded with seven minutes left for play when they were reduced to 10 men after defender Olivier Verdon was sent off for dragging down a goal bound Senegalese attacker.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, Benin Republic poured out in numbers in search of a possible equaliser. But poor ideas in the final third was their undoing until the final whistle.
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