football

Sadio Mané nets late penalty to give Senegal victory against Zimbabwe


Senegal’s Sadio Mané converted a penalty seven minutes into stoppage time to hand the pre‑tournament favourites a 1-0 victory over Zimbabwe at the start of their Africa Cup of Nations campaign in Bafoussam.

The Zimbabwe defender Kelvin Madzongwe was penalised for blocking a shot with his hand extended away from his body in a heartbreaking turn of events for his side as they were on the cusp of an upset at the start of the Group B action.

Senegal are Africa’s top-ranked team but had only 18 players available for their opening group match because of coronavirus and injury and, despite having the lion’s share of possession and opportunities, produced a tepid performance. Boulaye Dia thrashed a shot just wide of the Zimbabwe goal after 40 seconds, suggesting the match might turn out to be a one-sided affair. However, it proved anything but as Zimbabwe came within seconds of an unexpected point.

Mané had one enterprising move down the left flank, tricking his way past two defenders but then hitting his angled effort straight at goalkeeper Petros Mhari in the 24th minute.

The captain, Idrissa Gueye, had the best effort for Senegal seven minutes from half-time with just the goalkeeper to beat, but his first touch was too heavy as he steadied himself for a shot and the opportunity was lost. With 20 minutes to go the Senegal defender Abdou Diallo came close with a headed attempt from a free-kick, putting it just over the crossbar.

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Zimbabwe were restricted to a handful of counterattacking chances and set-piece opportunities, the best of which their captain, Knowledge Musona, wasted by floating it over the top. They had been under threat of expulsion before the tournament by Fifa, who warned of a ban after the Zimbabwe Football Association was disbanded by the government following accusations of fraud, but a deadline to reinstate the association’s executive has passed without any action.

Guinea beat Malawi 1-0 in the day’s other Group B game with a first-half goal from Issiaga Sylla.

Meanwhile in Group C, Moroccos game against Ghana at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaoundé seemed to be heading for a goalless draw when Sofiane Boufal pounced on a loose ball to score Morocco’s 83rd-minute winner.

In the other game in the group, Gabon beat Comoros 1-0 thanks to a 16th-minute strike from forward Aaron Boupendza.



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