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Last-second Mané penalty rescues three points for depleted and lackluster Senegal

A Senegal team missing several starters was the beneficiary of a late handball call in their 1-0 Africa Cup of Nations victory over Zimbabwe as star forward Sadio Mané dispatched the resulting penalty kick to help the West African nation to a fortunate three points. An unfancied Zimbabwe team put in an industrious effort and probably deserved a point, but will be devastated to have missed out on a result that would have provided a boost to their chances of qualifying for the knockout stage.

Things did not look promising for Zimbabwe after Senegal nearly found the net in the first minute. Mané sent in a square pass from the left flank to find Bayern Munich midfielder Bouna Sarr, who had far too much room to shoot but his sharp effort went wide of the Zimbabwean goal. The two combined again for another opportunity in the 21st minute, but Sarr shot low and wide after being set up for a decent look from eight yards out.

Credit must be given to a scrappy Warriors side that came ready to fight. After the early scares, Zimbabwe allowed little space for the Senegalese attackers around their penalty area and the Lions of Teranga struggled to find a way through a Zimbabwean midfield that showed determination. Despite the effort from the underdogs, Senegal looked like the only team that was capable of winning with the best first half chance falling to Idrissa Gana Gueye, whose touch failed him with the goal begging in the 38th minute.

Soon after halftime a golden chance fell the way of Senegalese center back Pape Abou Cissé, but as Zimbabwe goalkeeper Petros Mhari came out and failed make contact with an aerial ball the towering Olympiacos player sent a free header high and wide. Mhari did much better in the 76th minute when he intercepted a cross from Senegal substitute Habib Diallo that was intended for an open Mané at the far post.

It looked like Zimbabwe may very well get a precious point, but misfortune befell them in the final seconds of second half stoppage time. A pass found another Senegalese substitute outside the Zimbabwean penalty area, midfielder Pape Gueye, who attempted a hopeful shot from range. Zimbabwe defensive midfielder Kelvin Madzongwe came slid out to block the shot but the ball went off the FC Platinum player’s arm and there was no hesitation from Guatemalan referee Mario Escobar as he pointed to the penalty spot. Mané stepped up confidently and struck his spot kick with force, giving Mhari no chance.

Senegal play Guinea next match and Zimbabwe look to get their competition on track against fellow COSAFA member Malawi. Highlights of the match are below.


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