Senegal began their quest for a maiden Africa Cup of Nations title with a hard fought 1-0 win against Zimbabwe in their opening group B fixture of the tournament in Bafoussam.
By Beng Emmanuel
Liverpool forward Sadio Mane scored a stoppage time penalty as Senegal secured a hard fought win against the Warriors who mounted an impenetrable defence and stood firm under pressure in a bid to secure a valuable point but all in vain.
The game seemed destined to end in a goalless stalemate but Mane, 29, had other ideas. The 2019 African footballer of the year settled the contest from the spot. Senegal should have won the game by a bigger margin but strangely squandered all their chances.
The Teranga Lions were the better side throughout the game and frequently came close to unlock Zimbabwe’s defence through Sadio Mane, Keita Balde, Bouna Sarr and Boulaye Dia but Petros Mhari produced a string of saves to keep the threats at bay.
The 2019 Vice African champions played with class but the lack of goals was the only black mark on a perfect report sheet despite the wealth of talent on the field.
The Warriors who seemed comfortable with defending threatened occasionally but were devoid of ideas. They were outplayed by Senegal whose threats were rewarded when Kelvin Madzongwe handled the ball in the area. Sadio Mane, whose progress in the game had been restricted, stepped up and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Senegal played with a reduced squad of 17 players after several Covid-19 and injury cases were reported in the team. They had their goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, centre back Kalidou Koulibaly and striker Famara Diedhiou absent for their opening game.
They temporarily lead group B while waiting for the other game of the group between Guinea and Malawi. Senegal’s next game is against Guinea of his Liverpool team mate Naby Keita on January 14, 2022.
Senegal 1-0 Zimbabwe
[Sadio Mane 90+7]