Nick Ames's match report
ALGERIA ARE CHAMPIONS OF AFRICA
Senegal 0-1 Algeria Bounedjah’s deflected strike in the second minute has given the Fennecs their second continental title, their first since 1990. Their players and fans celebrate a career-defining achievement, and they don’t care that the match was an ugly spectacle. They deserve their crown, they have been the best team throughout the tournament. Senegal leave with the familiar anguish of a chance missed. They were both unlucky and untidy. Their wait for a title goes on.
90+4 min: Sané lashes the freekick into the wall.
90+3 min: Danger here! Deliberate handball earns Guedioura a booking and gives Senegal a freekick about 25 yards out, a little to the left. This is their chance to snatch a late equaliser ....
90+2 min: A decent delivery at last! Gueye floats a useful ball into the box from wide on the left. Mbolhi earns the adulation of his teammates by claiming it amid a thicket of bodies.
90 min: There will be at least four more minutes. No idea why there isn’t more, given all the stoppages there have been.
89 min: A reckless tackle by Guedioura gives Senegal a freekick wide on the right. But the delivery is again woeful.
Algeria substitution: Slimani on, Bounedjah off
87 min: Diatta stands over a freekick wide on the left. Senegal sends all their big lads into the box. And Diatta balloons it over the bar. What an an awful freekick.
86 min: It’s still too bitty, disfigured by cunning or rash fouls. Senegal have lost the rhythm they briefly had earlier in the half, and Algerian fans are starting to sense glory is within reach ...
Senegal substitution: Baldé on, Niang off.
Algeria substitutions: Brahimi and Tahrat on, Balaili and Feghouli
83 min: A good ball into the Algeria box is headed out to the edge of the area, where it drops invitingly for Sarr. He volleys it hard ... and too high! And then he holds his hands in his hands, knowing excitement for the better of him there.
82 min: Algeria launch a long ball forward to Bounedjah, who does his utmost to barge his way past the last two defenders but runs straight into Kouyaté.
80 min: Gassama booked for a mistimed tackle on Bennacer.
79 min: Gueye, who has not been as influential today as in previous games, is booked for a foul. And during that pause the ref allows Benlamri to rejoin the action in a pair of pristine new shorts.
78 min: Benlamri has been patched up and wants to come back on, but the officials won’t allow it until he changes out of his blood-splattered shorts. Algeria must play on with 10 men...
77 min: Diattta deposits a corner right on top of Mbolhi, who ignores the challenge of Diagne and punches well clear.
Senegal substitution: Diagne on, Saivet off. That suggests a switch to two up front, and a new person to take Senegal’s setpieces - Saivet’s deliveries have been poor so he won’t be missed.
76 min: Benlamri and Mané clash heads as they contest a bouncing ball, leaving the Algerian with blood spewing from an open wound on his face.
74 min: Mahrez’s curls a vicious corner into the near post. Gomis does well to punch it clear under pressure.
73 min: Mahrez relieves the pressure by drawing a foul in the Senegalese half. Then he curls the freekick from the left into the box. Sane has to nod it behind for a corner to stop Bensebaini from getting on the end of it.
70 min: Algeria look jaded. They can’t string three passes together and are struggling to keep pace with Senegal’s runs. Can they hold on for another 20 minutes? Tick, tock! Tick, tock!
69 min: Nifty play by Senegal to find work Sabalay into space about 20 yards from goal. He unleashes a swirling shot that M’Bohli pushes over the bar with difficulty.
68 min: Diatte has made a difference for Senegal, who are stretching Algeria more and more. The North Africans are clinging on ...
66 min: Niang peels wide with a clever run and is rewarded with a fine low pass from deep by Kouyaté. M’bohli rushes off the line to try to intercept at the edge of the area, but Niang beats him to it. In doing so he takes the ball quite quite, and he can’t steer his shot on to the target.
64 min: Senegal resume their pursuit of an equaliser. Algeria continue to show no ambition other than to hold them at bay.
The ref his overturned his decision, presumably on the grounds that the handball was not deliberate. This seems a good time to recall that Senegal are missing one of the best players today, Koulibably, because he was booked for a similar handball in the semi-final..
Penalty to Senegal! Pending Var review
Sarr’s cross from the right struck the arm of Guedioura. There was no way he could get out of the way but the ref has no hesitate in pointing to the spot. It’ll be a while before the spotkick is taken, however, because Algeria are protesting hard. Oh, and now the ref is going over to check the Var screen...
Senegal substitution: Diatta on, Ndiaye off. A welcome attempt to introduce more creativity to Senegal’s midfield.
58 min: That’s better! From the left wing Sabalay rolls a low pass to Mané in the box. He spins past a defender and lashes the ball across the face of goal. Benlamri does well to divert it away from the danger zone with his thigh.
56 min: Another freekick for Senegal, midway inside the Algerian half. Saviet’s delivery is again lacking. True quality has yet to make an appearance in this final.
54 min: Belaili booked for rebuking the referee after being penalised for an awkward challenge on Gassama.
52 min: Mané leads a break for Senegal, dashing towards the Algerian box, where, for once, Algeria don’t have many players. Mané knocks the ball through to Niang and darts through in the hope of getting a return pass. But Niang’s control is lamentable, and the ball won’t be coming back.
50 min: Good work by Sarr and Gassam down the right, until Bensebaini intelligently shepherds Gassama towards the corner flag.
48 min: Ndiaye takes out Bounedjah, giving Algeria a freekick in dangerous crossing territory, to the left of Senegal’s box. Bennacer flights it in, Gassama nuts it away.
47 min: It took only 43 seconds for the first freekick of the second half to be awarded. The next came 20 seconds later...
46 min: Algeria get the second half going. Let’s hope they’re going to try to increase their lead rather than just palm off Senegal.
As the players made their way off the pitch, several of the substitutes squared up to each other and there was some feisty pushing and shoving. At this point it’s hard to say which we are more likely to see in the second half: another goal or a big ol’ donnybrook.
Half-time: Senegal 0-1 Algeria
After a storming start and a fortuitous goal, Algeria have been pushed backwards by Senegal. Mostly the play was scrappy and ill-tempered, at times downright pathetic given some of the theatrics, but in the last few minutes of the half Senegal started to look sharper, passing and moving with precision and speed. Not enough to truly unhinge the Algerian defence yet, but Belmadi must know that if this pattern continues, an equaliser is on the cards. Algeria need to regain control and put on more pressure at the other end, where Senegal’s defence look dodgy.
45 min: Top pressing by Senegal to win the ball on half-way. Then they moved forward fast with a series of one-touch passes, before Sarr goes down in the box under a tackle. The ref points to the corner flag in the belief that the defender poked the ball to safety, but Senegal’s players want him to consult Var because the the defender came through Sarr to get the ball. But the ref isn’t changing his mind.
43 min: Saivet’s freekick is cleared at the near post by Benlamri.
42 min: The pressure from Senegal mounts. Ndiaye nicks the ball off Mahrez deep in Algeria territory and is then shoved over, giving Senegal a freekick near the byline, to the left of the box...
40 min: Dangerous probing by Senegal around the Algerian box. Mané and Gueye try to open them up with a quick one-two, but Algeria hold firm. That’s encouraging, though, for Senegal, because when Mané and Gueye have started to combine in this tournament, they wrought havoc.
37 min: Niang traps the ball nicely with his back to goal, 20 yards. Then he shuffles slickly, spins and fires a terrific shot just over the bar. What a way that would have been for him to notch his first goal of the tournament!
36 min: Niang flops the grass in the box. There’s far too much of this carry-on now, from both teams. Fortunately the ref’s not any it so far.
35 min: Setpieces look to be Senegal’s most likely route to goal at the moment. They have a corner here but before it can be taken there’s a stoppage, as Mané throws his arm into Feghouli’s mid-riff as players jostle for position in the goualmouth. Feghouli accepts the invitation to fall to the ground. The ref sensibly decides a firm word for both is sufficient. Then Saivet wastes the corner.
33 min: Kouyaté is good to continue. Within moment of his return to the action, there’s another stoppage as Bensebani gets a yellow card for a late tackle on Gueye. It’s getting very scrappy out there.
31 min: Kouyaté hares out to the right wing and clears the ball just before Bennacer can collect it. His momentum takes him crashing into the Algerian player and now he’s down in need of treatment. No blame on Bennacer for that, but perhaps more costly bad luck for Senegal ...
29 min: Bennacer rages at the referee to awarding a free against him in midfield. He throws his hands in the air and spins like a Tasmanian devil. The ref figures he needs a stern lecture to set him straight.
27 min: Saivet goes from goal from the freekick, fizzing in a swerving shot that bounces just in front of the keeper, who holds is well.
25 min: Lovely turn in midfield by Mané, followed by an nimble scamper past two players before he wins a freekick about 25 yards from goal ...
22 min: Algeria try to set up camp in the Senegalese half but that ambition is undermined by scrappy passing. The increased tempo and pressure from Senegal has made Algeria a tad scruffy, but has not yet opened up any real chances for an equaliser.
20 min: Saivet curls over a freekick from the right. It’s a wicked delivery and the two nearest Senegalese players go down in a heap under challenges from the defenders; but the referee correctly rules that no foul took place.
18 min: Ndiaye drives 40 yards forward, turning defence into attack, and then slips the ball wide to Sabalay on the left. Mahrez gets back to clear the incoming cross.
16 min: Mané brings the non-Algerian part of the crowd to its feet by tricking his way past two opponents in his own half before calmly laying the ball back to Sané, who punts it downfield.
14 min: A positive spell from Senegal, insofar as they have spent a bit of time in Algerian territory, albeit without being able to release any of their forward. But Mané has made a couple of clever runs, suggesting that if they can pick him out, he’ll do damage.
12 min: This is a mental test for Senegal, too. Their history in this tournament is full of near misses, misfortune and critical errors at crucial times, so conceding a freakish goal early on inevitably risks triggering fatalistic fears. Let’s see how they fend them off.
10 min: Niang, who has had a stinker of tournament all told, fails to control a low pass from deep. If he can’t hold up balls, Senegal are going to struggle to unsettle this Algerian defence.
8 min: During a pause in play the TV shows a replay of the goal, pointing out that Badou Ndiaye was furious at Gomis for not trying to jump for the goal as it drifted over his head. It did seem to arc very slowly past him but it looked like it was heading over the bar until it dropped quite suddenly into the net.
6 min: Belaili clips a freekick from midway into the Senegalese box. And now the absence of Koulibali is clear, as it takes Senegal several attempts to scramble the ball away under pressure.
4 min: It’s been a tremendous start, not just because of the goal but thanks to the tempo and attacking intent of both sides. Algeria are showing no sign of simply trying to protect their lead: they want more.
GOAL! Senegal 0-1 Algeria (Bounedjah 2)
What a start! Kouyaté is too eager to cut out a ball and Bounedjah rolls him out of the way to collect it wide on the left, then dashes towards the area and unleashes a 20-yard shot that takes a treacherous deflection off Sane and loops over the keeper and into the net! That sounds like immediate evidence of the fallibility of Senegal without Koulibaly but there was nothing Sané could do about that: wretched luck for Senegal, the perfect beginning for Algeria.
2 min: Gassama flings a throw-in from the right to Sarr, who takes it nicely and flashes a fierce ball across the face of goal.
1 min: The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations is go! Senegal kick off and zoom forward pronto. That’s the spirit!
“Algeria v Senegal is - again - City v Liverpool, Mahrez vs Mané,” notes Angello Noel. Well yes, it is, but it is also much, much more. And it’s imminent!
It’s a beautiful scene in Cairo. The stadium is (close to) full of happy people sporting their teams’ colours. And judging by the hearty accompaniment to the national anthem, Algerian fans outnumber the Senegalese by a a huge amount. Belmadi looks moved almost to tears.
With ten minutes to kickoff, the temperature in Cairo is a tolerable 30 degrees, with humidity at 43 per cent. Senegal will be dressed all in green, Algeria in white - the opposite, in other words, to when they met in the group stations. Will the result be any different?
As expected Salis Sané is chosen as the replacement for Koulibaly in the heart of Senegal’s defence, albeit not on his preferred side of the central defensive duo. Up front Ismail Sarr returns after a stop-start tournament so far. Algeria, meanwhile, have plumped for Mehdi Zeffane at right-back, where he tends to be defensively sound but not as enterprising going forward as the suspended Atal.
Senegal: Gomis; Gassama, Kouyaté, Sané, Sabaly; B N’Diaye, Gueye, Saivet; Sarr, Niang, Mané
Subs: Diallo, Ciss, Cissé, Konaté, Keita, A N’Diaye, Diatta, Diagne, Thioub, Wagué
Algeria: M’Bolhi; Zeffane, Mandi, Benlamri, Bensebaini; Guedioura, Bennacer; Feghouli, Mahrez, Belaili; Bounedjah
Subs: Doukha, Tahrat, Halliche, Fares, Brahimi, Slimani, Ounas, Boudaoui, Oukidja, Abeid
Referee: A Alioum (Cameroon)
Hello and welcome. Moments after missing the decisive penalty in the shootout at the end of the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations final, Senegal’s Aliou Cissé made a vow. One day, he said, he would go that last step and make his country African champions for the first time. Now, 17 years later, here he is, the manager of the Teranga Lions as they bid to make history.
But in their way stand Algeria, whose yearning his equally strong, not least because most of the crowd in the stadium in Cairo is made up of their compatriots. Djamel Belmadi’s men have looked slightly sharper throughout this tournament and, indeed, beat Senegal 1-0 during the group stages, albeit after Sadio Mané was denied a blatant penalty. But Senegal have been solid grinders, aided by sporadic flourishes from players such as Mané, Idrissa Gueye and Krépin Diatta, plus raids from left-back by Yousouf Sabaly. Their main strength, however, has been their solidity and that is likely to be weakened today by the suspension of the majestic Kalidou Koulibaly.
Algeria are also deprived of an important player – right-back Youcef Atal – but he is easier to replace than Koulibaly, who has been the bulwark of Senegal’s defence and a frequent instigator of their attacks. Baghdad Bounedjah, the Algerian striker who plays with a savvy brand of rambunctiousness (and erratic finishing), could spread mayhem in a rejigged backline; and Riyad Mahrez’s late rocket in the semi-final suggests he’s hitting form at just the right time. So Cissé and Senegal have a big job on their hands – but history is within their grasp. It’s showtime!