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Owono penalty save denies Sierra Leone a knockout stage spot in defeat to Equatorial Guinea

Sierra Leone supporters were left heartbroken after their team fell to Equatorial Guinea by a 1-0 score on Thursday at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations. Kei Kamara had a late opportunity to equalize and give the Leone Stars the result they needed to advance to the Round of 16, but Nzalang Nacional goalkeeper Jesús Owono came up with a massive save that means Comoros will advance instead of Sierra Leone. As the runner-up in Group E, Equatorial Guinea will face the winner of Group F determined later today (Mali, Gambia or Tunisia).

Neither team could claim to be the underdogs anymore on Thursday, and it was interesting to see who would grab the opportunity. The early exchanges saw both teams have an opportunity before fifteen minutes elapsed. Sierra Leone’s Kwame Quee nearly opened the scoring in the 7th minute but came up just short of getting a touch to Mohamed Buya Turay’s dangerous inswinging cross. Equatoguinean midfielder Pepín had time in the 15th minute to get a shot off in the Sierra Leone box but keeper Mohamed Kamara was aware and corralled the effort.

Sierra Leone lost their focus on set pieces during a crucial stretch in the final ten minutes of the first half and it would ultimately cost them. Iban Édu snuck in to receive a short Equatorial Guinea corner kick and drove a shot across the six-yard box that Kamara got a hand to before Buya Turay cleared. Little more than a minute later, the decisive moment arrived when a free kick from out wide was played short to Édu, who rolled a pass to the edge of the penalty area to find Pablo Ganet for a brilliant first-time curling shot that left Kamara with no chance.

Following the halftime break, Sierra Leone pushed forward knowing a goal would save them from elimination. The Leone Stars came close in the 62nd minute when Buya Turay chipped a free kick into the Equatoguinean penalty area. Center back Steven Caulker headed a dangerous ball across the goal mouth but nobody from Sierra Leone could apply the finish and the ball went out of play.

The dramatic moment in the match came in the 83rd minute when Sierra Leone substitute attacker Issa Kallon played a combination with Quee. As Kallon attempted to receive the return pass in the penalty area he was pushed over and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. However, veteran team leader Kei Kamara stepped up and Owono read his spot kick the whole way to push the ball wide of the post. Sierra Leone could not muster a final push after the devastation of the missed penalty and it was Equatorial Guinea who held out for the three points.

Highlights of the match are below.

38′- Pablo Ganet finishes brilliantly from Ivan Édu’s pass following a free kick

85′- Jesús Owono denies Kamara from the penalty spot to end Sierra Leone’s AFCON

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