YAOUNDE – Senegal downed a brave Burkina Faso 3-1 at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaounde on Wednesday night to book a berth in the final of the Total Energies Africa Cup of Nations.
Goals from Abdou Diallo, Bamba Dieng and Sadio Mane saw the Teranga Lions move into a second successive Afcon final and give them a shot at redemption after losing the 2019 championship game to Algeria.
As for the Stallions, their fine tournament should not be forgotten, but they simply lacked the class and firepower to match their heavyweight opponents.
After a tentative opening to the match it was Senegal who began to threaten in attack, with left-back Saliou Ciss cutting inside from the flank and sending a low shot just wide of the far post on 15 minutes.
A short while later Sadio Mane had his first sight of goal, letting fly with a grasscutter which was held by Burkina Faso goalkeeper Herve Koffi.
A Teranga Lions corner kick on 26 minutes saw Cheikhou Kouyate direct an unwitting shot on target, which was cleared from danger by Issa Kabore, and a few moments later Bamba Dieng headed wide of the near post after meeting Ciss’s cross from the left.
Burkina Faso suffered a major injury blow after the half hour mark when Koffi was hit hard in an aerial collision with Kouyate and forced off the pitch on a stretcher. Farid Ouedraogo replaced him in the 35th minute.
The Stallions offered up their first shot on target on 39 minutes, with Bertrand Traore’s initial effort blocked by a defender and falling for Hassan Bande, whose shot from a tight angle was turned away by goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.
Senegal had a strong appeal for a penalty turned down on 42 minutes when Mane and Kabore tangled in the box, but the match officials waved their request away. The Liverpool man also had chances in injury time before the break, shooting over with the first and stinging the palms of the replacement ‘keeper with the second.
The action-packed half ended with yet more drama, as the referee initially awarded a penalty to Senegal for a hand-ball against Tapsoba, though a VAR review convinced Bamlak Tessem Wetesa that he had been overly harsh in his decision and he duly rescinded the spot kick.
Chances were much harder to come by in the second half, but Senegal kept up the pressure and were finally rewarded on 70 minutes.
Ironically, for all their attacking talent, it was a combination of their central defenders which brought about the goal: a corner kick rebounded in the Burkina Faso box and saw Kalidou Koulibaly attempt an overhead kick – his effort was controlled by partner Abdou Diallo, who then swept home a low shot to break the deadlock.
Six minutes later the Teranga Lions doubled their advantage. Mane did great work to steal the ball on the byline before pulling it back for Dieng to slide home an effort – though it was not clear from the replays whether it was in fact Idrissa Gueye who got the final touch.
The Stallions didn’t give up and pulled a goal back in the 82nd minute, with Blati Toure providing an unorthodox but effective finish off his knee as he met Kabore’s cross from the right and steered an effort past the left hand of Mendy.
A stunning comeback looked to be on the cards, but Senegal fully capitalised on the Burkinabe throwing men forward in the dying minutes and wrapped up the game with a swift counter attack which was beautifully finished off by a chip past the goalkeeper from Mane to seal a 3-1 triumph.
The second semifinal sees Cameroon face Egypt on Thursday night, with the winners advancing to face Senegal in the final at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde on Sunday 6 February. (Backpage TXT)