Riyad Mahrez, Algeria Beat Sadio Mane, Senegal 1-0 in Dramatic 2019 AFCON Final

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistJuly 19, 2019

Algeria's forward Baghdad Bounedjah (L) celebrates his goal during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) Final football match between Senegal and Algeria at the Cairo International Stadium in Cairo on July 19, 2019. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)        (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)
KHALED DESOUKI/Getty Images

Algeria crowned themselves champions of Africa on Saturday, beating Senegal 1-0 during the Africa Cup of Nations final.

Baghdad Bounedjah opened the scoring in less than two minutes with a deflected effort, and the Desert Foxes expertly defended their lead in the first half, barely giving away any chances. Senegal improved after the break, but Algeria's defensive strength won out.

The final was a rematch of their group-stage clash, which Algeria won 1-0. It's Algeria's second title, after the 1990 triumph.

Algeria had the perfect start to the contest, and a lucky bounce gave them the lead inside the first 80 seconds. Bounedjah's shot took the strangest deflection, looping over goalkeeper Alfred Gomis and into the net.

He picked a great time to rediscover his shooting boots:

The massive setback shocked Senegal, who needed some time to recover and start building momentum. Sadio Mane was predictably at the heart of their attacks, but he was surrounded by three players whenever he came near the ball.

M'Baye Niang was the main danger man, and he went close on two occasions. The first shot was saved by Rais M'Bolhi, but it was the second effort that really worried the Desert Foxes, narrowly missing the target.

Chances were rare, but what the match lacked in openings, it made up for in drama. Shortly before the half-time whistle blew, Mehdi Zeffane made contact with Ismaila Sarr, but no penalty was given.

Sportswriter Tomas Danicek thought the defender got lucky:

And the drama didn't end there. As the teams made their way to the sidelines for half-time, the sides clashed, with officials quick to intervene.

Algeria's defensive fortitude continued to be on full display early in the second half, although Mane finally found some space for his first dangerous shot after 57 minutes. 

And just three minutes later, the video assistant provided the next bit of drama. Senegal were awarded a penalty for an apparent hand ball after Sarr's cross, but the VAR overturned the decision. This fan was ecstatic:

Niang wasted a rare good chance, taking the ball too wide as he rounded the goalkeeper and firing into the side netting. Youssouf Sabaly also tried his luck, but M'Bolhi made an excellent save.

Senegal gambled late by bringing on Keita Balde, but Algeria did a fine job controlling the pace in the final minutes. Riyad Mahrez played a key role by drawing several fouls, making up for some struggles in the first half.

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