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VAR steals the spotlight during Senegal’s victory over nine-man Cape Verde

Senegal’s sluggish form continued but the Lions of Teranga did enough to advance to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals on Tuesday thanks to a 2-0 win over Cape Verde. An early red card set the stage for what appeared to be a one-sided affair but the Blue Sharks held out bravely until a second sending off led to a winning strike from Sadio Mané that made the difference. Senegal advance to face the winner of Tuesday’s later match between Morocco and Malawi.

The favorites dominated the early stages and looked to attack Cape Verde from the start. In the opening minute, Senegal left back Saliou Ciss got to the end line and sent in a cross towards the far post. Idrissa Gana Gueye collected and laid off for Mané at the edge of the penalty area, where the Liverpool forward beat Cape Verde goalkeeper Vozinha with a curled effort that hit the post and bounced out.

Just when Cape Verde began to get settled into the match, disaster struck before twenty minutes were complete. Central midfielder Patrick Andrade went in aggressively for a midfield challenge with Senegal’s Pape Gueye and followed through with his studs into Gueye’s ankle. Following the first Video Assistant Referee review of the match, Andrade’s initial yellow card was changed to a red and the Blue Sharks went down a player.

The Cape Verdean team tends to excel at defending and playing on the counter, so the red card did not change too much and Senegal struggled to create chances. Mané came close in the 39th minute when he played a combination with Idrissa Gueye but the combination of Cape Verde center back Steven Fortes and Vozinha did well to snuff out the opportunity.

Scoreless at the half, the match’s second VAR review brought a cloud of controversy around ten minutes into the second half. A long ball over the top of the Cape Verdean defense saw Vozinha come out of his box and attempt to head the ball clear, but a sprinting Mané leaped up and met the ball before he and Vozinha clashed heads in a nasty collision that required extensive treatment for both players. After a long review that took close to five minutes, it was decided that Vozinha’s challenge was dangerous and a highly disputed red card was given to the concussed shot stopper.

Only a few minutes after the fracas was settled, Mané provided a moment of brilliance to bail out the lackluster Senegalese team. A 63rd minute corner kick from Bouna Sarr was headed out towards the corner of the Cape Verdean penalty area, where Mané collected and launched a beautiful curling effort that glanced off the crossbar and in over Dylan Tavares on the post. Mané, still feeling the effects of the collision with Vozinha, was substituted soon after his match-winning goal.

Down two players, Cape Verde still attempted to chase the game after going down but opportunities were few and far between. Bamba Dieng, the player who came on for Mané, had several opportunities to seal the win and finally converted in the second minute of stoppage time when he and Famara Diedhiou sprinted out on a 2-versus-1 break before Dieng slotted a finish past substitute keeper Márcio Rosa.

Highlights are below.

57′- Controversial red card given to Cape Verde goalkeeper Vozinha following collision with Mané

63′- Brilliant strike from Mané gives Senegal the lead

90’+2- Dieng puts match away to send Senegal through to quarterfinals

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